Augmented Reality: Coming to a Store Near You?

By Cameron Abbott, Warwick Anderson and Georgia Mills

Recent moves from PayPal and Target have brought fresh attention to the use of augmented reality (AR) in commercial settings. The technology remains in its infant stage but the revival of PayPal’s patent for payment-enabled AR glasses has some analysts wondering how close the technology is to becoming the mainstream.

The software described in the patent would give consumers with the glasses access to product and purchasing data simply by looking at an item on a store shelf.

Consumers could store their payment information within the PayPal system and buy items from vendors. While there is no indication that PayPal is planning on releasing the glasses just yet, it reveals some of the ways in which AR could become a day-to-day technology in the retail sector.

Other uses for AR include Target’s virtual make-up app, which allows customers in select stores to “try on” different make up products via a digital screen. Rebel Athletic is currently developing an AR fitting experience that will enable customers to get an accurate clothing fit by scanning their bodies for measurements. The company anticipates the mobile app will be available in its stores within months and plans to develop the tech to a point that customers can download and use the app on their personal devices, removing the uncertainty many feel when shopping online.

Augmented reality still has a way to go before it becomes a daily part of consumer life. The interest of large players in the payments and retail industries cannot however be ignored.  The degree of enriched data that will be generated through the use of such technology also makes the prize worth pursuing in many contexts.

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