Musings about 5G and AR

This is a late Friday afternoon rambling on possible directions for ecommerce. No deep research, just daydreaming.

Did you know 5G is coming? Really? Okay, so actually there is a lot of coverage already. There is a slight problem however, lack of quality devices and demand.

This is where news/leaks from Apple become more interesting. 5G is likely this year. Further, the Apple glasses leak becomes more interesting as a potential user of that bandwidth. And until then, all those funky cameras with 3 lenses (great for depth perception) and your mobile screen can still be a useful step forward. 

For ecommerce, I think it will be an interesting time ahead as 3D models for products are becoming more common. Shopify reports 250% lift in sales from product pages with 3D models linked with Augmented Reality (AR). The product 3D models (the data to drive the experience) is becoming more common, and people are getting used to using AR on phones to visualize products in a home environment. And there is more demand after events like COVID to avoid public places like shopping centers.

Phil Jackson on LinkedIn talked about how he sees clienteling being a big future direction. Instead of lots of people in a store, book an appointment with a sales associate. Get personalized assistance by scheduling an appointment. This may also be a response to not expecting the same level of people in your physical stores in the future, so instead use stores for high quality customer engagements via appointments instead.

Mixing this with AR, why not do clienteling remotely? This is where the 5G and AR starts to come into the picture. Why not have a sales assistant appear via AR in your own home? You can talk to them, and they will bring up suggested products for you. The sales associate would need to be in a special booth area with cameras etc, but it avoids the need for a shopper to leave their home. (Note: it could be done with a 2D projected image of the associate with a 3D product model which would reduce the required hardware setup for sales assistants.)

Why does AR have more potential than VR? I think AR devices are more useful. You can use them for navigation, you can use them to see a product in your environment, you don’t have the danger of running into walls, other people in your location can still get your attention, they are more social, and so on. VR in comparison you enter a different universe, isolated from your real world surroundings. Spending money on an AR device I think will be an easier decision, and I think AR device usage will be more socially acceptable.

Coming back to Phil, clienteling I think can make sense with some products, but not all. It can be too expensive for some products to have a human spend a lot of time with a customer. And on-demand instant gratification shoppers may not want to wait for an appointment. So what then? How about 3D animated virtual shopping assistants! Free software like VROID makes it (relatively) easy to create your own 3D avatar. There are already quite a few VTubers around doing this, using VR and hand tracking for good quality experiences. Hook up the avatar to voice recognition and a personal assistant and you can have quite a fun purchasing experience from the comfort of home. And no need to pay human staff for simple enquiries.

Yes, just Friday afternoon musings. It will take a while to be fully realized, but interesting days ahead for sure.

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