Can Augmented VR Turn Window Shoppers Into Buyers?

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Young woman with futuristic smart glasses over gray background

For starters, nobody wants to wear the headgear — those myriad virtual reality headsets that open a second life for our senses. Heck, people wouldn’t even wear the slender Google Glass to achieve an augmentation of their reality. As for the gamers and experiential entertainment enthusiasts, they’ll likely suffer the headsets just fine — during gameplay at least.

Extend this to SMBs and their customers, and things get even more tenuous. Sure, there have been many attempts to connect shoppers and local outlets virtually through computers and smart devices, but not much has really clicked on a grand scale.

Frankly, it’s probably time for a new interface.

This status reminds me a bit of our pre-GPS attempts at AOL to show consumers points of interest near them “right now” … and later, in the mid-aughts, while at Sprint’s business unit XOHM (a mobile broadband service complete with a suite of product and content offerings) attempting to build a truly dynamic hyperlocal experience for consumers no matter where they were. We launched that localized experience over proprietary devices and on the Web to a bit of fanfare. But still, consumers had to peer through a non-augment screen on a desk or held their hand.

Pearl Media’s interactive window display for the brewer Blue Moon in Oldtown and Wicker Park, Chicago.

These attempts to bring people closer to the things they want, and create serendipitous experiences along the way, were rudimentary at best, compared to where we need to be (and what we might see in the future). But again, what we have today is either too much of a barrier for the consumer (goggles?) or not a shared experience (Yelp’s Monocle).

One can imagine a way out by sort of combining experiences — allowing for a useful augmented interaction with deep engagement for local shops and their shoppers.

Picture the window shopping experience of yesteryear (or today for that matter) where SMBs used that space for displays aimed at enticing passersby to pause, at least a moment, and maybe be captivated enough to jingle the bell on the door.

The question is whether tomorrow’s brick and mortars (while still pressing on with mobile and online marketing) will also be implementing some version of a smart window.

This so-called smart window, somewhat resembling the very real screens seen in some refrigerators  and those not quite real, would serve as a way to both grab attention of the potential shopper but also allow them to physically interact with store sales, selecting specific products and possibly even drop them into a delivery cart for home delivery or just bagged up and ready when the customer did walk in.

Restaurants would be able to display an augmented layout of the menu complete with images, permitting the customer to select a meal and sides, enter fridgetheir cell and be alerted when the food and table were ready.

It seems that somewhere among the magic glass of Minority Report, Microsoft’s Hololens (sans the headset), the miracles being promised by Magic Leap and Oblong’s Mezzanine there is room for meaningful developments in store window technology.

So maybe it will come from the likes of GetureTek and their interactive displays or Best Window Displays (BWD) with their variety of showcases. The point remains that the technology is here — if not packaged yet — and ultimately the costs to manufacture will likely fall enough to allow SMBs to participate.

Until that day arrives I guess we’ll have to hold up our smartphones or don bulky headsets to experience the future.

RickRRick Robinson is SVP of Product for on-demand roadside assistance startup He is also an advisor to Street Fight. Follow him at @itsrickrobinson