2013.13 | Immersive Experiences via Gaming Tech

Screen Shot 2013-04-02 at 10.35.26 PMOculus Rift – Gamers are in for an upgrade of the virtual reality sort thanks to the Oculus Rift.   This Kickstarter driven set of head tracking 3D goggles are poised to be at big deal in the future of gaming with some key game developers signing on to develop games for this user interface.  While it is impossible to get a feel for the immersive nature of the experience without actually trying it for yourself, the videos indicates that a much wider field of view (full peripheral vision) and almost instantaneous responsiveness differentiate the headset from the VR we knew and hated in the nineties.

Screen Shot 2013-04-02 at 10.01.19 PMIf the experience is as exciting as those using it seem to indicate, and these devices become as common in homes around the world as the xbox kinect, retailers will be looking at yet another channel for customers to buy goods and services.

While a shopping mall or store in a Second Life like environment might seem an obvious idea, more immersive and interesting experiences would be possible in this space.  Imagine a virtual tour of a new car where a potential customer can get in the car and move their head all around to get a complete idea of the layout and size of the vehicle, and even take a virtual test drive before even visiting a showroom.   The potential uses for immersive brand experiences are incredible.

Screen Shot 2013-04-02 at 10.50.21 PMIllumiroom – Microsoft Research has also posted a video of a concept for gaming that could change the experience of interacting with a screen.  The Illumiroom concept scans the room and then projects visual elements within the room to expand the viewing area from just the TV screen to the entire room – effectively making the entire room you are in part of the experience.  The demo shows the system scanning the room to calibrate projection and then expands the background video across the room.  The video even appears to show books shaking on shelves in response to explosions on the screen.

Once again, while gaming has already shown some utility in consumer facing environments with various retail Kinect hacks the Illumiroom concept in the hands of creative types could drive a whole new type of online or even store environment to provide some unique experiences to customers.

Many have lamented that shopping for music and books is just not the same in a virtual world.  What if instead of windowshop, Amazon could project a more traditional bookstore across your living room?   You could walk through and look at virtual displays of curated books and select them for download to Kindle.  It not only provides a novel experience, but provides the potential for purchasing in the more serendipitous way that always seems to be missing from online shopping.  More first person browsing might occur than first person shooting.

2010.37 | Thinking Slightly Outside the Box

In my travels online this week I saw a number of interesting ideas.  While not particularly brand new, many of them are moving from an unlikely novelty to the kind of thing retailers are willing to try.

  • Tesco has launched an iPhone app where customers can shop for all of their items on the phone and then set a delivery time.  Interesting notion that should be fun to follow.  Whether clients will have the patience to scroll through and pick everything for a larger order seems unlikely, but if there are saveable short lists of items that people are purchasing, it could represent a real convenience and the next iteration of the old web grocery model.  I’m not sure if it is part of the solution presently, but adding this to the pickup option to their Click and Collect program would be an interesting shopping model!


  • The general population are now accustomed to Self Service in a vending machine model where we purchase, but how about kiosks where we actually stock them for credits?  One such example is the ecoATM, whose company was recently purchased by Coinstar.  These units accept end of life mobile phones for resale or refurbishment.    Pepsi is also into this game with their Dream Machine where users can drop off their recyclables for charity.   Good idea in principle, but it may be challenging to implement.  Of course, we could take recycling to a whole new level and recycle the self service machine itself as one German company is doing.


  • La Boutique Puegot has a Virtual Mirror application online.  The website allows users to take pictures of themselves with the webcam and “try on” different kinds of sunglasses prior to purchasing them.  There are lots of virtual models out there, but the increasing availability of webcams makes this a possible staple for similar items like hats, hairstyles, scarves, and maybe even clothing.


  • I recently met with Gridcast media, and very much enjoyed some of the unique empty storefront installations they have done for various advertisers around Toronto.  I particularly enjoyed the storefront they did for DuskTV as well as the one for Caramilk.  Expect more of this sort of interactive experience on the street with the decreased cost and sophistication of technology.

2010.30 | Barcodes for Consumers

Barcodes started off as a tool for retailers to use to avoid tagging product with prices, improving throughput at the checkout, fine tuning inventory control, and reducing shrink.   How times have changed.

Consider the following examples:

  • While mobile solutions like foursquare allow for check-ins at establishments including retailers, Booyah‘s MyTown is now providing product check-ins.  Consumers can scan products with their mobiles using the app and make a game of it to see what comes up.  Users can unlock items in a virtual world, or potentially a coupon for what they have scanned.
  • As reported by PSFK, Food52, a recipe blog, is using stickybits to allow users of their site to scan products at grocery stores to bring up recipes for those ingredients on their mobiles.    Essentially stickybits is a mobile application for iPhone or android that ties barcodes to whatever you want – a website, a video – whatever you like – even a recipe database as Food52 has done.

What this comes down to with retailers is a change of control.  Retailers traditionally controlled information and all aspects of how the interaction occurred between the business and the consumer.  Now the consumer is gaining a great deal of control over the interaction using tools like those discussed above.

It’s similar to the beginning of file sharing systems like napster which turned the music industry on its head. While physical items like t-shirts are not able to be shared as data files (yet) like music and video can be, electronic devices and gaming are finding ways to spread into the physical world and have an impact on how products can be sold that is beyond the control of retailers and manufacturers.  Luckily retailers are attempting to take advantage of these new interfaces.

2009.11 | “New” New Media | Mobile Stores | Changing Gaming

Not everyone is cutting and slashing when it comes to new ideas in this challenging retail environment.

New new media – with the release of Kindle 2 people seem to be taking e-books seriously. Trying to place Amazon as the iTunes of e-books doesn’t seem like a bad plan given their success. While music stores were slow to adopt digital delivery channels, it doesn’t look like books will make the same mistake. Indigo started their shortcovers.com store. Not to be outdone in the US, Barnes and Noble is buying Fictionwise to stay in the race.

Mobile Store Market – Given the incredible growth of the mobile market it’s no surprise that there are plenty of players looking to capitalize. Specialization is coming into it – Best Buy has Best Buy Mobile stores in Canada for example. Now word comes this week that Bell Canada has purchased The Source stores in Canada. While Bell already has a sizable store footprint mainly in Ontario and Quebec with Bell World and Espace Bell, expect them to build on that strength geographically and by obtaining revenue and control over gadgets that can access their core service offerings. With increasing saturation in wireless, you have to wonder if owning all your own outlets and not having to pay dealers could help the bottom line. It’s a bold move in a downturn to increase your stake as a retailer, but it’s always better to buy when prices are low.

Changing GamingGamefly’s first kiosk went in this week. As the first entry by a company that offers a subscription service, this offers a potentially interesting twist, providing them a middle ground between an online and bricks and mortar presence, and a platform with the potential to mix subscription and on-demand services – a new angle in this business.

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