Q&A: Virtual reality and augmented reality in business

We spoke to André Hordagoda, Co-founder of GoInStore, to discuss the roles of augmented reality and virtual reality in business environments.

How much impact will augmented reality (AR) have compared with virtual reality (VR) in the retail environment?

I see a clear distinction in the use of these technologies in the retail environment. The application of VR will largely be focused on enhancing the consumer experience, whereas, for AR technology, there are applications for both retailer and consumer.

VR’s ability to deliver a digitised experience serves the consumer very well and we’ve already seen really cool examples, from 'virtual inspection' of digital cars to the ability to remotely explore shopping malls, wherever they are in the world. The downside here is that consumers need the hardware to have the experience, and until VR kit hits a critical mass, the VR experience in the retail space will largely be provided at the retailer's expense.

When you compare this to some of the early examples of AR – from trying on sports shoes, remote shopping, mapping product stock data in field of view, all the way through to product recognition technologies that can deliver enriched product information in real-time – all of these can be done with a standard smart phone. While both AR and VR applications are set to become more and more exciting with the advent of faster, lighter and more powerful Digital Eyewear, in the short to mid-term, retail examples for AR will outweigh VR, both in terms of use-cases and commercial viability.

VR has some notable health risks, do you think this will be an issue with AR?

VR’s greatest health risk is also its strongest attribute; the better the experience, the more powerful the potential detachment from the real world. As AR merely adds an enhanced layer to the real world, people are less likely to fully withdraw from reality. Aside from that, care needs to be taken with both technologies to encourage careful, moderate use!

How do you use AR in the retail environment?

There are already many applications of AR in the retail space. From the retailer’s side, AR is being used to improve stock and replenishment efficiencies, helping staff to ‘see’ where items are and where they need to be. From the consumer perspective, retailers are giving customers the ability to pull-up additional product information and even ‘virtually’ try on shoes, sunglasses and so on.

GoInStore’s novel application allows web visitors browsing from home to be transported to the retail store and 'see through the eyes’ of in-store sales experts and communicate with them as if they were physically in the store. We’re already developing our application to incorporate real-time product recognition, which opens up a whole raft of new applications.

Will retail staff be willing to use wearables?

This is a question we are faced with at the beginning of every sales pitch and the short answer is yes. Our application is designed to increase the productivity of shop floor sales staff, by facilitating their ability to deal with sales inquiries from the digital channel as well as physical visitors to their store. This means that they are now able to generate more business for the retailer they work for, which delivers a clear business case.

How this increased sales performance by in-store staff is rewarded by the retailer is down to them, but we are fully able to accurately attribute all sales by store and individual sales members through the GoInStore technology solution.

Image source: Shutterstock/Wayne0216