Though Google’s artificial and virtual reality technology is still a long way from mass adoption, one of its executives says AR and VR for use in the retail sector is here.
Clay Bavor, Google's vice president of virtual reality, said the technology is still in its "early days," with “plenty of questions left unanswered.” He was speaking Thursday at Google I/O, the company's large annual developer conference held this year at Mountain View's Shoreline Amphitheater.
Still, AR and VR is seeing adoption among businesses, including, for example, by helping online retailers cut down on the number of returns.
Daydream, Google's VR platform, will allow users to try out clothes and furniture virtually. On Wednesday, the company announced that Daydream will incorporate Google's augmented reality platform Tango.
It will also support a new category of standalone VR headsets with HTC, Lenovo and other third-party hardware makers later this year. It also announced new smartphone platforms for the VR technology: the next LG V30 and Samsung Galaxy S8 models, which will launch in the second part of the year, bringing Google’s total Daydream-ready devices to 11.
“We see big potential in the concept of augmented reality,” said Andrey Doronichev, Google's director of product management for VR products at at Thursday's keynote.
With its latest advancements on its Tango technology, Doronichev and other speakers showed demonstrations of how it could be used for such scenarios.
The company showed examples of a partnership with San Francisco-based clothing company Gap Inc. for an AR app that lets users visualize themselves in outfits. Google’s Tango technology captures data from hundreds of location points on an item from a photo taken with a smartphone. It is then able to superimpose a 3D rendering of a garment.
The app, which is already available on some devices and will be on more later in the year, allows an object to appear on any flat service. Clothing items are then dragged to the augmented mannequin with an option to look it it from any angle and change sizes.
Doronichev gave another example of using its browsing feature ChromeVR to shop smarter in online stores for items like coffee tables. “You don’t want pictures on your phone, you want to try the furniture in your room,” he said in Thursday's keynote. “In an AR-enabled browser, your favorite browser would only show you items that fit in an existing space.”
ChromeVR is coming to the Daydream platform this summer, he said. Three years ago, it opened its WebVR platform where developers were able to begin building applications.
On Wednesday, the company previewed its advanced Tango technology in an AR scenario where a person was able to walk through a Lowe’s store and locations of products were displayed.
Google calls this feature “visual positioning service,” which is a kind of GPS feature that maps indoor locations and identifies the location of a mobile device within a mapped place, in real time. “Where GPS can give you directions to a museum, VPS can give you the precise location of a single artifact in some obscure corner of a gallery,” the company said in blog post.
Bavor, in a Medium post on Wednesday, said he rejected the idea that the AR and VR technologies are dueling, saying: “VR can put you anywhere; AR can bring anything to you.”