While MR has mostly been used as a ‘try before you buy’ tool in retail, where products are digitised and placed as a synthetic layer over a real physical setting, HoloLens 2 brings increased sophistication to the medium. It allows brands to flip the dynamic by using MR to put real products in an augmented world. Crucially, this means that people can still feel the real product: its weight, texture, material – the very features that make it ‘it’.
Take auto retail as an example. Sampling the car as a virtual entity in a VR experience doesn’t feel authentic. Sitting in the real car in a dealership gives a better sense of what the product feels like – those comfortable leather seats, that inimitable new car smell. But the car is stationary. It's far more impactful to get a sense of how the car would feel on the road. This is where MR can shine. With HoloLens 2, the dealership environment could be transformed into the open road. The customer’s physical connection to the real product, combined with the augmented environment, builds the perfect blend of cool, real and practical.
When MR is used to augment the physical surroundings of a product, brands can unleash retail magic. When other technologies like Internet of Things (IoT) devices are thrown into the mix, creative possibilities grow exponentially. Just imagine using MR and IoT to place a virtual shoe on a plinth, with the shopper customising it using natural gestures through an augmented interface. With 57% of marketers saying that personalisation technology is key to unlocking true one-to-one customer experiences, what’s not to like?
The feel of a product can be its most distinguishing factor. But these unique qualities don’t come across authentically in VR – nor TV, web or print, for that matter. MR, however, merges the 2D, 3D and 4D worlds, helping brands and products to remain authentic while furnishing customers with unforgettable wrap-around digital experiences. In my view, MR won't replace the tactility of shopping, but it certainly will enhance it.
Maciej Zasada is technical director at UNIT9, a global innovation company that creates immersive in-store retail experiences for brands.
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