Augmented Reality Expands Its Applications Amid The Pandemic

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Augmented reality (AR) is finding some killer applications during the pandemic, most notably in the cosmetics and automotive businesses. Recent developments in both categories show striking progress for the technology.

For example, Perfect Corp, a B2B-oriented beauty tech solutions provider, introduced the new “YouCam Makeup” app for Shopify this week to bring virtual makeup try-on capabilities to the platform’s beauty merchants. It features 25 template designs and enables color and texture matching on Shopify-powered eCommerce beauty sites. The app allows consumers to virtually try on makeup products in real time via live camera mode, delivering an improved online makeup shopping experience at a time when people are still wary of returning to stores, especially for a high-touch activity such as cosmetics.

According to Perfect, virtual try-on apps keep customers engaged while shopping online, and can drive conversion by up to 2.5x. Shopify recently released new data showing that interactions with products that include AR content showed a 94 percent higher conversion rate than products without AR.

The app’s dashboard adds a data-driven element that provides analytics reports on consumer behaviors and preferences to help identify trends and market opportunities to maximize sales. The integration of the app with merchant stores on Shopify does not require any advanced programming skills.

Hygiene and safety are a top priority for the category, even for stores that have reopened. Sephora and Ulta prohibit customers from physically testing makeup products, and they’re deploying AR to help customers digitally test beauty products to assist in buying decisions. Ulta’s virtual try-on beauty tool, GLAMlab, has seen a surge in usage since the pandemic. Engagement has increased seven-fold, and more than 50 million shades of foundation have been swatched digitally with the app post-COVID.

“According to a Nielsen global survey from 2019, consumers listed augmented and virtual reality as the top technologies they’re seeking to assist them in their daily lives,” said Harvard Business Review. “In fact, just over half (51 percent) said they were willing to use this technology to assess products. I fully expect that interest has since soared as we’ve seen AR shift from being sometimes gimmicky to now solving real pain points for customers, especially amid the pandemic.”

The automotive business is also speeding past gimmicks for AR. Envisics, a U.K.-based augmented reality provider, received a $50 million investment this week from various sources, including Hyundai and GM. Envisics is the inventor of “enabling dynamic holographic technologies for augmented reality head-up displays (AR HUDs).” That’s a very technical way of saying that the technology creates holograms via a processing chip installed beneath the dashboard that can superimpose information and graphics at multiple depths up to roughly 425 feet ahead of a vehicle.

“GM is very impressed with Envisics’ holographic AR-enhanced head-up display technology,” said Matt Tsien, president of GM Ventures. “This technology will help us revolutionize the in-vehicle experience with a variety of safe, highly integrated and intuitive applications, including applications that will enhance the hands-free driving experience in future EVs, like the Cadillac LYRIQ.”

The LYRIQ, Cadillac’s first high-performance electric SUV, will be on the road in 2023. It is designed to offer beyond 300 miles of range on a full charge. Performance and technology highlights include an enhanced version of Super Cruise, the industry’s first hands-free driver assistance feature. Available on more than 200,000 miles of enabled roads, Super Cruise was recently updated to include lane change on demand.

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