Augmented Reality can help to maximise the online shopping experience, with the recent advent of a new ‘markerless’ AR solution that enables consumers to visualise products in realistic 3D in their own homes, while browsing the web, or at a bricks-and-mortar store.

Augmented Reality Becoming an Essential Tool for E-commerce

The ability to visualise a virtual object in the real world onscreen, a technique known as Augmented Reality (AR), is now becoming available to enhance the user experience in a variety of different fields. Possible applications are to be found in the medical field and brain research, and also in smart city installations.  Augmented Reality also has a great deal to offer commerce and retail players, as the overall shopping experience becomes ever more important in these businesses. There are now a number of tech companies offering AR solutions to businesses that want to highlight and differentiate their product and service range. Companies such as Finland-based Sayduck and French Augment, which offer AR technology via smartphone apps, enable the user to visualise an object modelled in 3D using reference markers to project the image on to a page or sheet. Now however an Israeli startup called Cimagine Media is offering an AR solution based on technology that does not require any physical markers.

Pioneering technology

Founded in 2012, the company is run by four entrepreneurs, who contribute their experience and skills in different fields – marketing, architecture, telecommunications and artificial vision. They offer an AR platform which enables the end user to visualise a product in its destination environment, when s/he is looking to buy online, using a free downloadable app. The pioneering technology being developed by Cimagine (patent pending) combines sensors embedded inside a mobile device (smartphone or tablet) with an algorithm which analyses the images and ensures a final effect that is very close to reality. The user can move about the room and visualise the product life-size on his/her screen, move it around and rotate it at will.  And all this can be done without the need for any predefined reference markers, which Cimagine co-founder and Marketing Director Nir Daube describes as “barriers to the purchase act”.

Sprucing up traditional retail catalogues

Cimagine’s stated aim is to “develop a product for the end consumer”. However, the company offers its new technology exclusively to retail firms, providing them with an AR solution based on a monthly subscription, the price varying according to the number of products in the catalogue. The process seems very easy: all a retailer has to do is incorporate a ‘visualise’ button into their catalogue and then upload 3D models of their products on to a Cloud server. This approach requires very little technical maintenance. So far the startup has just two clients: one in Israel and the other in the United Kingdom, one a major retailer of high-quality furniture and the other a supplier of electronic equipment. Meanwhile the company continues to grow and the team are hoping to branch out into other types of products. Nir Daube is convinced of the potential of Augmented Reality, describing it as “the next natural step for processing digital information applied to the real world.” He reckons that the retail sector can make good use of the new technology, which should help to drive forward the transition from traditional retail to the ever-growing e-commerce channels.

By Eliane HONG