Why mixed reality headsets are the future of shopping

By Cristina Ferrandez

One of our predictions for this year (read our 7 tech trends for 2023 forecast blog) is that mixed reality (MR) headsets might finally become a reality. 

The leader in MR headsets, for the time being at least, is more than likely going to be Apple.

In mid-2022, Apple registered several “Reality” trademarks. Later that year, Bloomberg reported that work on Apple’s MR headset is wrapping up and that the headset is likely to be introduced sometime early in 2023. 

Now, more details have emerged.

According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, Apple’s mixed reality headset is planned to be released this Spring (or at the very least, during Worldwide Developers Conference in June). Shipping will probably happen in autumn. 

To get a glimpse of what is to come, Poplar Studio’s co-founder Laurie Ainley recently tried the released Meta Quest Pro headset. 

While overall reviews of the headset have been mixed, Ainley’s experience has been positive. 

In particular, Ainley was impressed with how the headset could realistically render virtual objects in the real world through a browser, so no app installation was needed. The objects are loaded from a web-based product visualisation unit that Poplar Studio also offers for brands that want to create desktop/mobile-based 3D and AR products and experiences.  

“On a few occasions I was even worried about knocking into the virtual objects I’d placed in front of me! It’s not a polished consumer-facing device, but it’s certainly potent enough to get creative brains whirring about how to solve problems using AR in future,” said Ainley on Twitter

Meta Quest Pro shows us what might soon be possible through Apple’s and other companies’ mixed reality headsets, but it also sets a precedent for smart glasses

Far from just a novel “toy,” mixed reality headsets (and eventually, smart glasses) will change how people shop. 

How mixed reality headsets will change online shopping

Here are a few ways mixed reality headsets will likely change how people shop online. 

Better ecommerce UX journey

Mixed reality headsets will make shopping online easier. 

For example, a person looking to renovate their home will no longer have to rely on their imagination or create room design mockups to get a sense of how a space would look if they were to paint the walls or add new furniture pieces. 

Instead, wearing a mixed reality headset, a person standing in their living room could see exactly how a new sofa, coffee table, and other furniture would fit the room and even walk through it to get a feel for it. 

Visualising furniture at home will be possible using a mixed reality headset
Visualising furniture at home will be possible using a mixed reality headset

Don’t like where the sofa is? The headset wearer can move it with a hand gesture to another spot within the room.  Or, also with a hand gesture, they can switch to a completely different design.

It’s not just shopping for your home that will get easier. Clothes buying will also get a makeover. 

Rather than purchasing clothes blindly and having to return them later, customers will dress an avatar version of themselves when shopping online to see how the pieces they’re thinking of buying would fit them. 

For customers that miss the personal touch that comes with visiting a physical store with a sales assistant, mixed reality headsets will fill this gap too. With a mixed reality headset on, shoppers will be able to have a hologram of a salesperson talk to them while demoing a product in front of them. 

To see how this might work, look no further than Peloton’s AR product viewer. This immersive 3D feature lets customers render a 3D version of a Peloton bike in their space using a smartphone. The bike is sized appropriately, and customers can walk around it and look at it from all angles as if it was really in the same room as them. 

In the future, Peloton could expand on this capability by also including a virtual salesperson who could walk users through the bike’s features. 

Improved customer service

Mixed reality headsets will also improve customer service

Take product manuals, for example. With a good product manual, customers can find answers to common questions and solve simple problems without having to contact customer service. But there’s one issue: customers rarely read product manuals, and about 1 in 2 say product manuals are boring. 

With a mixed-reality headset, customers could overlay AR instructions over a product to learn how to use or assemble it without having to leaf through hundreds of pages. 

The automotive brands Genesis and Mercedes already have AR apps that let users scan their cars’ environments with their smartphones and then overlay information on their screens about the different functions available. 

Mobile device-powered AR customer service experiences will move to mixed reality headsets
Mobile device-powered AR customer service experiences will move to mixed reality headsets

But what if a product breaks? Mixed reality can also improve the repair process. Instead of having to contact customer support every time they encounter a problem, customers can use their mixed-reality headsets to identify the issue at hand. They can then either report the problem more accurately to customer support or fix it themselves—again, with the help of mixed reality, i.e., overlaid instructions.

An AR experience providing instructions for manual assembly
An AR experience providing instructions for manual assembly

Other ways mixed reality headsets will change online shopping

About 3 in 4 millennials say they prefer to spend their money on experiences rather than material things. 

As mixed reality headsets become a part of our lives, we are likely to see digital experiences and digital gifts replace physical ones, whether they come in the form of games, virtual tours, AR birthday greetings, or something else entirely. 

For example, you can imagine how something like “Angry Birds FPS: First Person Slingshot,” a mixed reality game that made headlines in 2018 for letting players overlay characters and other objects onto their own environments, would make for a popular Christmas gift. 

Angry Birds FPS: First Person Slingshot,” a mixed reality game.
Angry Birds FPS: First Person Slingshot,” a mixed reality game.

Mixed reality headsets: a world of possibilities

Mixed reality technology is still relatively new, but the planned release of Apple’s mixed reality headset shows that it’s closer to becoming a part of our everyday lives than we might realise. 

While mixed reality headsets are unlikely to change how consumers shop overnight, any forward-looking business should be investigating the opportunities that the widespread adoption of MR headsets and (with time) smart glasses will eventually bring. 

A key part of mixed reality experiences is augmented reality. Contact Poplar Studio today to learn how your brand can use AR to attract customers and grow business. 

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