Fire Your Sales Department and Open a Virtual Reality Store Instead

The best ideas are often the simplest.

And this idea was no exception: with one augmented reality app we managed to provide seamless and personalized shopping experiences to thousands of customers. With over 430 stores and a product line including laptops, smartphones, and tablets, Allo is one Ukraine’s largest retailers. The company wanted to expand its product line and sell household goods like fridges, vacuum cleaners, and washing machines.

There was one problem: they didn’t have the store space to display thousands of goods and sell their new product line.

The solution? Build a Augmented Reality app that would allow their customers to shop from the comfort of their home and feel like they were in a physical store. With this Augmented Reality app, Allo could optimize space and avoid hiring more staff in their stores, all while providing a state of the art VR shopping experience.

One of Allo’s Physical Stores

As experts in VR/AR development and ample experience in developing augmented reality shopping applications, we were ready to tackle this task. Allo were confident that we could implement their vision of a virtual store. They wanted an immersive and multidimensional space where customers could access thousands of goods.

And within several months we came up with one of the most revolutionary augmented reality applications in the world — a virtual reality store with hundreds of home appliances models.

How We Made our VR Store?

We started with a demo that was created on Vuforia, a software development kit that utilizes computer vision to track simple 3D objects. This was the start off point for the first model. The first product we attempted was a very basic red coffee maker, and from there we developed more complex 3D graphics for products such as an air conditioner and a fridge.

First 3D model for a future virtual reality store

The prototype was approved and the real work started.

During this time, the AR/VR community was in awe with the release of ARKit, a new SDK that made AR mainstream. ARKit, the SDK created by Apple, was a dream come true for developers who wanted to build the best augmented reality applications.

With the help of ARKit, it was possible to track horizontal surfaces with extreme accuracy and without the need for geolocation or markers.

This release was perfect timing as it allowed us to develop even more possibilities for our VR shopping application.But we wanted more from these 3D models — we wanted to allow the users to interact with them fully: to see the products from various angles, to analyze the smallest details, or even open them and look inside (which is what you can do with a fridge now). Interactivity is one of the major marketing trends of 2018, and it’s now possible using augmented reality applications built on ARKit.

Creating Super-Realistic 3D Models

In terms of 3D modeling, it was a unique and greenfield project. Amazon had used photogrammetry to create home appliances. We modeled all the fridges, vacuum cleaners, and laptops from scratch.

What’s more, we managed to preserve natural colors, the tiniest details, and flecks so 3D models of washing machines and other home appliances look insanely realistic.

So when a customer clicks on “buy”, they are guaranteed that what they are seeing is exactly what will be delivered to their homes within a few days. Buyer’s remorse is resolved.

3D models of fridges

How We Solved the Problem of Lighting?

The journey to the final product wasn’t without its hurdles. Lighting was a serious issue.

Creating the right lighting for dynamic objects was essential in order for them to seem realistic when they move and customers interact with them.

To achieve the right lighting for the perfect VR experience, we decided to use baked lightning interpolation with the help of native mechanism of light probes. Because the surrounding environment was static, we could use baked lightning for creating a beautiful and realistic in-store experience.

Want to open a washing machine? Just do it!

Storing and Serving a Huge Range of Products

Initially when the number of models was limited, we stored them locally on the device. So a user basically downloaded all the models on their smartphone or tablet when they were looking through the product line. But it was clear that this was a temporary solution.

The number of products and models was growing and we needed to transfer them to a separate server. Which we did! It created unlimited possibilities.

We can now add hundreds and thousands of home appliances to the store.

Customer experience was at the heart of every decision, so we remained faithful to what shoppers want from virtual reality apps: speed and light weight.

Creating Compression Convention

Compression involves reducing the weight of the image without the loss of the quality, and there are dozens of algorithms for compression. To make the app extremely fast we had to create our own compression convention.

On a trial and error basis, we were able to define the best algorithm for compression. A painstaking task of comparing the 3D models with real models allowed us to decide which compression method worked best.

Futuristic Portal for WOW effect!

UX/UI for the Virtual Reality Store

Making intuitive and effective UI/UX for the application was another challenge. Any augmented reality app is a complex technology especially if it’s a virtual reality store for buying home appliances. So UI/UX must make it simple and intuitive to use.

We created user friendly and realistic UI to help the customer move quickly along the purchase journey.

We used several large Calls to Action, blurring the lines between reality and virtual reality while incorporating Allo’s unique and recognized branding.

Sky is the limit for your virtual reality store

Quality Assurance

It’s impossible to create an app without coming across bugs. If somebody tells you that they’ve created a bugs-free app it means they didn’t test it properly.

Never cut corner when it comes to QA, it’s more important than AR app development itself.

We tested Allo’s augmented reality application for several months and corrected all the minor bugs to ensure it ran smoothly.

Long Story Short

More and more consumers view in-store shopping as a chore. The drive, parking, and the queues mean wasted time and discomfort. With virtual reality stores, shopping becomes a real pleasure. You can buy with one click from the comfort of your home and at any time of the day.

It’s a win-win for both retailers and consumers.

Users get a personalized, comfortable shopping experience without the risk of buyer’s remorse. Retailers save space, rent and can fire all their sales managers. At last!

If you’re thinking about creating an augmented reality app for your business, we have plenty of ideas, expertise and experience. Tell us what you want and we will pitch you the best AR idea!

Daria Fedko, CEO of WeAR Studio

Written by

Enjoying my life, family, friends, team and AR/VR things we are doing at WeAR Studio.

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