Look around, AR is now a reality

Augmented reality enhances the mobile shopping experience with "live" room previews of your new purchases.
16 October 2018

Save yourself the bother of physically fitting your new TV – use AR. Source: SHutterstock

As a relatively new technology, augmented reality is gradually finding its feet in real-world applications in businesses, adding value to real estate, architecture, product prototyping, medicine, and even in HR departments.

You can visit museums and exhibitions and have a virtual guide appear in the palm of your hand, or see an interactive interface through which extra multimedia content is available.

As much as the reality we experience can be “augmented” by the technology, the augmentation also refers to the added value which can be given to commercial propositions, such as sales.

At a recent event in London, UK, one of that country’s largest retailers, Argos was present on the exhibition floor, showcasing some of its very latest tech – and its Apple ARKit-enhanced shopping app was on show, nominated for an award for technological achievement.

Argos join that other favorite of the out-of-town-shopping-center, IKEA, in using AR technology to showcase some of its products in users’ own settings.

Initially trialed live in the first iterations of its iOS app, Argos’s development teams came up with the facility for its potential customers to be able to choose a sofa from the catalog, and see the potential choice appear in AR form on the device’s screen.

Large items of furniture are the logical choice for a first wave of a rollout, as customers changing their minds once a hefty item has been delivered is a costly business for companies – returns and logistics aren’t as simple as returning a small parcel by courier.

Thanks to clever programming both by in-house devs, plus the box of IT chicanery Apple has embedded in iOS (ARKit 2 was released this year), users can move around the “installed” piece of furniture, to see its suitability with their decor, dimensions and color schemes.

Thanks to ARKit, you can interact with over 100 Lego models before purchase. Source: Argos

This ability has now been spun out to include Argos’s large-screen TVs: choose your new smart TV, point the camera at the site of the proposed installation (assuming your walls are big enough to take your choice!), and the TV appears en situ – even showing some typically saturated stock footage.

As part of the overall AR-powered offering, Argos customers for many Lego models can “play” with kits before they buy, getting 3D close-ups of toys, and even letting users move figures around virtual Millenium Falcons, for example.

The AR capability is embedded in the Argos app in the Apple App Store. The company hopes to roll out a similar provision to Android handsets in the near future – Google’s ARCore was first previewed almost exactly a year ago.

Matt Grabham, digital product manager at Argos, said: “As more and more of our customers […] are shopping on-the-go using our mobile app and embracing advances in technology, using AR to showcase our products is a natural evolution.”