Augmented Reailty: XBOX, Zugara, Eyetoy Play with Online Shopping

By Matt Van Hoven 

Maybe it’s time to get out of advertising and get into something truly cool. For once. What we’re talking about is augmented reality (AR), an idea that won’t so much change the way you advertise as it will bring consumers (us) closer to the products they (we) buy online. AR is yet another vehicle meant to get your clients’ products closer to the people who may want them, hopefully in exchange for some money.

The first time you saw AR was probably when GE launched the “Plug into the SmartGrid” campaign &#151 a piece that showed is the “cool” factors of AR, but with little payoff beyond that. That’s all changing; the first time I realized the potential was while watching a demo for Project Natal, Microsoft’s next major advancement in in-home gaming. In the demo, we see a young woman trying on clothes via her TV. How’s it work? A camera built into the XBOX reads the girl’s shape and then applies clothing to her body. The girl asks a friend’s opinion, but the friend is piped in from her own home via web cam. Who needs social interaction?


Today we came across a similar project from LA based Zugara, a digital shop with delusions of awesome, which built the technology you see in the video above. Their “augmented reality meets utility” tool is called the Webcam Social Shopper, and it makes good on Natal’s idea (though seemingly both were in the works at the same time, Natal won’t be out for another year). “Everything in that video is fully functional,” reports Zugara CEO Matt Szymczyk. Neat-o.

Here’s some potential benefits for users:
&#151 Livestream their webcam’s feed to friends and loved ones, and get comments and feedback right next to the application in real time.
&#151 Receive “clothing care packages” from loved ones who might be somewhere else in the country and set up times to “shop together” online.
&#151 Enter their measurements into the app and get a “fitted image”.
&#151 Match entire outfits at the same time, both top and bottom.
&#151 Shop right within a branded Facebook application.

Presumably, Natal and Playstation equivalent EyeToy will offer similar usability. So in concept, Zugara is ahead of the curve &#151 if you consider Microsoft and Sony leaders.

We spoke to a female online shopper we know who has a habit of buying up to 4 versions of the same item, all different sizes, in order to get right fit. She tells us she’s not going broke with delivery fees, and here’s what she said about Zugara’s technology: “That’s so cool! I would definitely try that!

“The one thing to keep in mind however, is that although this would be helpful, you never know how something is going to look/fit until you try it on. A size 4 at H&M is vastly different than a size 4 at Ann Taylor, and certain fabrics cling and can make you look fat, etc.”

“The point being, although this is a good step and may help online sales, nothing can substitute for actually trying on the clothes.”

Or buying 4 sizes of the same item, I suppose. Nonetheless, the “wow” factor seems to be of most interest here &#151 and that may be important for retailers having trouble in the area of online sales. The opportunities are just budding.

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