The Future is upon us 2

… Hopefully this won’t be a sequel that’s worse than the original.

So I showed you what AR is and how it works yesterday, and since the team is also working on some VR stuff (it’s still pretty early in development so don’t expect it any time soon) I decided today I’d discuss VR and its main use in Commerce

Now “what is VR?” you’re probably asking, if you’re not… well don’t worry I’ll just pretend you are. VR stands for virtual reality. This is different from AR in the sense that it doesn’t just add computer generated information to our physical world but instead goes a step further and completely immerses you in a virtual CGI world (Not a single trace of reality, you know unless it’s a gritty realistic FPS you’re simulating)

To put it in an extremely simple way VR is simply tracking the movements of your body and transferring that data into your character’s movements in a virtual world created by the headset (which part of the body it tracks may differ a bit depending on hardware but it’s mostly just head tracking, hence why we mainly have VR headsets). The headset is designed to give you a full first person experience (no screens in the way to break your immersion), so that you feel like you’re actually there in this virtual world.

For an in depth look into how a VR headset actually works check out this link: http://www.wareable.com/vr/how-does-vr-work-explained

VR unlike AR hasn’t been used much in commerce. While VR has its uses there hasn’t been any  real products made or any companies that are actually using it currently, although some big companies are making pushes towards a V(irtual)Commerce platform and they are likely making prototypes as we speak (yea, like what we do. Crazy huh?)

Despite VR’s lack of use in Commerce currently, it still has many potential uses that haven’t been put into practice just yet. The main one is creating a virtual store, where you can wander around the place looking at items as if you were there, except you’ve actually skipped the 40 tedious minutes spent trying to get to that store and then not finding what you want and having to walk to another store that’s on the other side of the shopping mall.

Right now VR shopping poses the potential to be the best of both online and traditional shopping (for example being able to buy from home, able to switch stores at will and able to wander around and find something cool that you weren’t originally looking for).

Well that rounds up this article on VR, I apologise for not going into how the headsets work more myself but honestly that’d make for one insanely long post. Well I hope you enjoyed this and all my other articles, as this is my last one.

Anyways thanks for taking your time to read these and thanks to the Hybris Labs team for taking care of me this past week.

The Future is upon us

So we here at Hybris Labs have been working on a new AR prototype (well it’s under wraps for now, so pretend to be surprised when we actually unveil it); so I figured it’d be a good time to give a quick rundown on what AR is and how it works, as well as some of its uses in Commerce (just in case we decide to give you a pop quiz). I’ll also give one of my own ideas.

AR, in case you didn’t know, stands for augmented reality and what it does is enhance the real world by supplying computer generated data (augment it, if you will. You never would’ve guessed huh?) – this is often done by superimposing computer generated images (CGI) onto our view of reality but something like using sound to augment reality can also be done.

(Remember that one scene in Iron Man where Tony interacts with the holograms in his lab? You know how that made you think “that’s so cool! I wish we had that in real life”? Yea well that might be our reality soon, although you may have to be as rich as ol’ billionaire Stark to buy one when Microsoft’s HoloLens initially comes out)

Now onto how AR works (in a simplified way). For the most part all forms of AR work in a similar way (on a basic level anyways) with a few differences depending on what hardware is used (Head mounted displays, Spatial AR, smartphones etc.) In essence it takes information from the real world through GPS, compass, camera etc. (and if a server is required sends it to the server first) then processes and returns the data as media (text, video, image, 3D models etc.) and through an output displays the media (outputs such as: a screen, speakers, and… you know what? I’m pretty sick of how long all of these lists are).

There are several ways AR could be used in Commerce, one way is by displaying product information with AR through our smartphones. Just imagine pointing your phone’s camera at an item and having all its details floating around the object in question (well you don’t have to imagine, I do have a picture of it below after all). With this you could easily find out, say an article of clothing’s price, available colours and sizes as well as how the prices compare to other retailers.(Of course food works too, just don’t walk into a clothes store to look for a $2 chocolate bar, and then blame us when you can’t find it)

We could also use AR to visualise what an item of furniture would look like in your house. Say you’re unsure if you have enough space for that comfy leather sofa you want, or say you want to test what colour of a table would look best in your dining room; well this is where AR comes in. By simply pointing a smartphone’s camera at a spot where you’d like to place the table (and opening an app I suppose), you would be able to see a 3D life-size model of that table appear on your smartphone’s screen- thus allowing you to see what the furniture would look like in your home before you commit to buying it.

Finally my idea for a use of AR is to have a sort of virtual changing room. Honestly for me the worst part about shopping is how long the act of trying on clothes is. So I thought it’d be a cool idea if there was a changing room where you could have the clothes superimposed on you (as a virtual 3D model), so you can check its size and if it looks good on you without ever having to take off your clothes, as well as allowing you to easily change the colour and size of your clothes in the changing room(assuming they have said colours and sizes in stock).

There you have it, a quick rundown on AR and how it can be used; now you’re set to go out and do as you please with this new found knowledge you’ve acquired.

So it seems we’re not just working on prototypes…

… are you suprised yet? Well recently Hybris Labs has been making some contributions to a Hybris Commerce product that’s pretty awesome (don’t worry though, our main focus will still be our prototypes).

So basically what’s been happening is that Georg has been helping out the people working on the Assisted Service Module, by bringing in some of the technologies from the Changing Room to use in their product.

What's new pic

Now it uses RFID, iBeacons + an App etc. to detect when a customer enters the store to pick up their order (we wouldn’t want to be unprepared after all). Also, using the Assisted Service Module, store assistants have direct access to the customer data; so they can help the customer in the physical location, greatly improving the customer’s shopping experience.

Man remember the days when you had to walk around for hours to find that one jacket you really wanted in your size…no? Well I’d hope not because then we wouldn’t be doing our jobs. More seriously though, I honestly can’t wait for this to be in every store so I no longer have to dread going shopping for clothes.

Me, Max and a whole load of wires spend the morning together

As you probably already know if you’ve been reading our blog, we’ve been spending some of our time renovating the showroom. So when I heard Max would be doing some work on the showroom I figured this would be a good chance to go with him and see what he’s up to.

Once we had arrived at the showroom we needed to unscrew and take out an USB port on the wall. unfortunately our lack of a screw driver that would actually fit stopped us swiftly in our tracks.

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(Max had tried several screw driver heads at this point and was thoroughly fed up).

Don’t worry though, we recovered pretty quickly and moved on to another important job. We decided to go to the server room, because we had a problem where the big TV screens would flicker every two seconds (on and off, on and off, on and… ok you get the picture).

The problem was that our current system of connecting the HDMI cables to the TVs relied on using Ethernet cables as a middle man. This is because HDMI cables aren’t long enough, so we had to use an adapter to convert the HDMI cables into Ethernet cables, which could then be connected to the TVs.

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(This is the adapter and it turns out it’s super expensive for what it does, but for your own sanity I won’t tell you the price)

So to fix the problem we moved the Raspberry PIs from the server room and placed them closer to the TVs (one for each TV), and connected the HDMI cables directly to the TVs from Raspberry PIs.

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(Max had to take apart the leaning tower of Raspberry PIs… well it’s not leaning but atleast it  sounds delicious)

Unfortunately connecting the HDMI cables directly to the TVs would take a lot of rewiring and Max effectively had to dismantle our entire set up for connecting the HDMI cables to the TVs.

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After about an hour Max had successfully taken out all the HDMI cables, adapters and a good chunk of the other wires. In the end we had taken out all the wires except the Ethernet cables – those were connected to the Raspberry PIs and were still needed to provide an internet connection (which is fairly essential to our lives) .

Afterwards we went through some test runs to make sure everything was connected properly and that it all worked.

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In the end we managed to finish up all the wiring so hopefully when you check out the showroom yourself you won’t see any pesky flickering screens.