What Is Augmented Reality Shopping?

Augmented reality shopping is a combination of technology and various commercial concerns to create a system by which shoppers can more uniquely interact with products. Although different methods can implement this, the idea is that monitors and cameras are used to display a video with computer-generated images added in real time. Smart phones are often used for this type of shopping, as they tend to include cameras and different types of software or applications that can be combined for an augmented reality shopping experience. Some stores have begun using various pieces of hardware at retail locations to provide more shopping options for customers.

The basic idea behind augmented reality shopping begins with an approach to the shopping experience that uses technology to better empower customers. Most augmented reality systems, for any application, use at least one camera and a video display or monitor. Images or video are captured by the camera, which are displayed in real time on the monitor, and software is then used to add digital components to the video. This allows a company to use augmented reality shopping to show customers what a product looks like without a physical model, even if it is in a box or requires assembly.

One increasingly common form of augmented reality shopping is the use of smart phones, which have a camera and a touchscreen. Customers, for example, can use applications on a phone to “scan” barcodes for products using the camera. The screen on the phone may then show the product that was scanned, with a virtual overlay that provides information about it, such as comparison prices at different retailers or customer reviews. There are even applications for augmented reality shopping that show nutritional information about food, or allow someone to scan a product and then order it from an online retailer, all through a phone.

Some physical retailers have also begun implementing augmented reality shopping systems in their stores, to provide customers with a more interactive experience. Clothing stores, for example, can use a large digital touchscreen and a camera to make the screen into a “mirror” that shows a customer and digital samples of clothes. This allows a person to virtually try on different outfits to see how well certain colors look and to send images to friends for their opinions, through email or other messaging systems. Some applications can even be used for this type of augmented reality shopping in a person’s home, using a computer and webcam. Additional forms of augmented reality are likely to be incorporated into more stores, as companies try to lure shoppers away from online retailers and back into physical locations.