With the holidays over and the second decade of the 21st century winding down, it's time to recap the highlights from the gift-giving season. As always, technology fueled the new must-have gifts as augmented reality completed its transformation from aesthetic value to core functionality. It's no surprise that was going to happen. The big surprise was how traditional retailers utilized AR and how it impacted holiday sales figures both in terms of where and how much was spent. Some retailers reported a 10 percent shift of total holiday sales to their Web-based outlets and others reported that year-on-year total sales increased by as much as 15 percent.
This was the year of etail game changers. Setting the trend was Gap's Wii
3-D Body Shopper - the first
home 3-D scanner for personal use, which took the guesswork out of finding the right size. Before this season, I avoided buying clothes on the Web - shoes especially, because of my sixth toe. But the launch of the 3-D Body Shopper changed everything. It just makes sense. Manufacturers know their product dimensions down to the millimeter. The body scanner allows you to virtually determine if things will fit, be too tight or too loose simply by comparing your specs to the item specs. The only real question is "Why did this take so long?"
The Gap launched the technology but thankfully they didn't keep it to themselves. By going open source from the start with other retailers and the now-ubiquitous home entertainment-gaming consoles, they accelerated the adoption curve and circumvented a format war. That, coupled with the launch of a marketing campaign that featured scans from some top celebrities along with the double-your-money-back guarantee, resulted in a blockbuster launch.
Although virtual profiles made it easier to shop for friends online, not everyone felt comfortable putting their body scans online. Victoria's Secret just announced that they will be installing integrated kiosks into their stores. A great idea for women who don't feel comfortable uploading scans of their more personal areas. The in-store kiosks are 100 percent offline and allow people to upload their scans anonymously. The kiosks will supply recommendations based on inventory so women can try the items on right there. They project it may cut down on total time spent in stores by 30 percent for those that use it.
But shopping was not the only area that blurred the real and virtual worlds. The year 2019 will go down as the year that the term 'assembly required' was no longer a phrase to be feared. People came back to Ikea this year in large part due to their new celebrity ar triggered instruction manuals that replaced the old paper instructions. Of course, it was a hit. First of all, they are entertaining. I added the George Lopez desk assembly instructions to a playlist; it was hilarious. Second, they are smart. Each AR has a piece recognition module that identifies pieces you hold up and shows you just where it goes. No more building things only to learn that one piece is in the wrong place. The blogosphere is buzzing about some secret content you can only unlock by holding up specific items to certain AR assembly programs.
My personal favorite new tech gifts were the AR enhanced sunglasses. I have the worst sense of direction, but that is no longer a problem because of the new Porsche Design/Bionic Eye collaboration sunglasses. Because of the virtual overlay, now no matter where I look, I know where I am and what's around me (stores, street names, etc.). It allows me to program in specific locations for walking or driving. I prefer the on-lens directions when I am walking and the audio directions when driving. There are rumors that next year car manufacturers will be integrating dashboard data into the on-lens displays.
The real gift of 2019 was time. People are getting back time. Less time trying things on. Less time returning items. Less time fighting because your significant other is a size or two different then what you lovingly picked out. Less time spent lost looking for a store, or the party, or your house. Actually, the real gift was that we got more time to spend with the people we wanted to spend it with.