It seems everyone these days is imagining exploring a realm where shopping meets science fiction – the “metaverse”. A world where commerce is not limited to the physical but expands into a futuristic digital universe and back again. The reality is experiences like these are nothing new. Digital explorers and pioneers have been embarking on journeys that explore the possibilities of this concept, which bends the minds of mere mortals, for decades.
We recently discussed this topic with the brilliant minds of the Future Lab XR team within Reality Interactive, who are pushing the boundaries of technology through their Project X(R) initiative to revolutionize the way consumers shop. Their insatiable curiosity and cutting-edge approaches have allowed them to predict the trends and technologies that will transform the shopping experience as we know it. From augmented reality to virtual reality, and mixed reality, they are creating innovative ways to bridge the physical and digital worlds. Get ready to discover the future of commerce like never before – where technology meets innovation and shopping transcends boundaries that will soon be only limited by our imagination.
So, with the term metaverse quickly becoming the next big buzzword in marketing, what does our Future Lab Project X(R) team think about this?
Dreams of a globally connected virtual world as an alternative to the physical universe is not new. In fact, the concept was around for many decades before author Neil Stephenson coined the term in 1992. And, in practice for over 20 years in MMOG’s like Second Life (2003) World of Warcraft (2004), Minecraft (2011), Fortnite (2017), and brand multi-user experiences like The LEGO Group’s LEGO Universe (2010). But these are all different universes (metaverses) with user profiles unique to each experience. So, even though we are working “metaverse-esque” experiences with some similarity to the examples above, we tend to view these as what they are now, and that is XR. When you hear or read about large companies racing to own The Metaverse, one must think – what does that mean for the individual? Can they really go across virtual words with a singular user profile, or are they a different “person” for each? As a digital shopper will they be able to seamlessly jump from one shoe brand store to another like a virtual mall where all brand’s CRM programs are linked together in a virtual wallet? We will expand more on the concept of the metaverse in future articles but, the list of challenges is massive so, for now we are focusing on amazing XR-based commerce experiences for our partners.
Overall, we view XR as the next massively disruptive innovation in retail technology. Experiences are crucial for retailers to remain competitive in today’s brave new world and the seismic improvements in hardware, technology, and internet combined with a massive decrease in previously insurmountable cost barriers make so much more possible. By investing in research and development and staying up to date with the latest trends and technologies, our team makes sure we are thinking about this future even when planning experiences for the here and now. And, for us it started with augmented reality.
Our company started working on digital product customizers in 3D environments and augmented reality experiences, delivering projects such as the Endless Pools 3D customizer and the Hot Spring Spas Virtual View™ AR app. Given the size and scale of a spa or swim spa, it is always hard to know how it might fit in the backyard, patio, or room. When the pandemic hit our client’s dealers also needed to find a way to sell products with little physical interaction. The technology we build enabled someone to place the spa with the right scale wherever the customer was considering – a very personalized experience. The use of AR technology helped the customer make a better, more informed decision. This experience also brought in an early form of retail integration by allowing the user to share their favorite customized spa with their local retailer and share images of the spa on their patio on social media. We soon realized integrations like this started moving our projects from just impactful AR to metaverse-esque type experiences. Learn more about our Hot Spring Spa experience here.
OUR universe now expanded to Mixed Reality and VR
The Reality Future Lab Project X(R) was born out of the success of our experience building 3D and AR solutions. Our team was inspired to expand our solutions into the XR space, given the emergence of MR-friendly hardware such as Meta Quest 3. We are excited to create MR/VR solutions that elevate the retail and digital commerce experience, while also providing a seamless path to purchase. Our technology blends the best of both the real and virtual worlds, enhancing the overall consumer experience and allowing them to shop in any way they prefer.
One of the most exciting aspects of our work is building XR solutions that can transcend the device used to access them. We envision a world where the user experience is tailored to the device, such as AR for phones, browser-based for laptops, and VR/MR for headsets. The possibilities are endless if we build with the end-user in mind. While we cannot yet reveal what we are currently working on, stay tuned for exciting updates from our Future Lab Project X(R).
As for whether our solutions will become metaverse experiences, or whether the concept of the metaverse is just hype, we do not yet know. We are focused on building the best XR solutions possible, and only the future will drive where our efforts take us.
Got a big idea? Let’s talk – we’re excited to make it a reality.