Wayfair may not have physical stores, but that’s not stopping the home furnishings e-retailer from expanding into the physical world.

Wayfair Inc., No. 24 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide, recently launched WayfairView, an augmented reality Android app that lets shoppers view products in their homes.

In the WayfairView app, which is separate from Wayfair’s core shopping app, a consumer can select a product to view in 3-D. Her smartphone’s camera will launch and the shopper points her device in the direction of the area of her home where she would like to visualize the product going. She taps on the screen where the floor is to orientate the object. The product image then downloads to her smartphone and a few seconds later the consumer can see a 3-D image of that product on her smartphone screen where it would be in her physical space, says Mike Festa, head of Wayfair’s research and development lab.

For example, a consumer can see the couch she wants to purchase in her living room on her smartphone screen. As she walks toward and around it, she can see the couch get larger and how it looks from various angles, all on her smartphone screen. She can also move the image with her finger to place it in different spots.

“We thought it was a great way to enhance the visibility of our product beyond a flat 2-D image,” Festa says.

advertisement

To work, consumers need to have Google Tango, which is an extra sensor on a smartphone that produces the augmented reality effects. Currently, no smartphone has this sensor, however, electronics manufacturer Lenovo has announced its Phab 2 Pro smartphone due to be released in the fall will have Tango. Anyone can also order a Tango developer kit, which includes an Android tablet with the correct sensors, from Google for $512. Thousands of developers already have, according to Google.

A convenient aspect of the 3-D feature is that consumers don’t have to measure their home space to determine if an item will fit. For example, a couch’s dimensions will accurately fill up the correct amount of space in the room, so there is no need for a tape measure, Festa says. Consumers can also place the augmented reality images over their current home furnishings.

Consumers can also select multiple products, such as a dining room set, to see how all the pieces look together. The 3-D image files are only between one to two megabytes in size, so depending on network speeds, it should only take a few seconds for each item to fully download, Festa says.

If a consumer decides she wants to purchase the product, she can tap the add-to-cart button on the screen and the Wayfair shopping app opens to the checkout page.

advertisement

Eventually, Wayfair would like to skip the step of having the apps talk to each other, but since Tango technology is not mainstream the retailer decided separate apps was best, Festa says. The Wayfair shopping app has 3.5 million downloads, the retailer says.

Currently, the WayfairView app has 3,000 products available to view in 3-D, a small sample of Wayfair’s deep catalogue of seven million products. By the end of the year, Wayfair hopes to amp up its 3-D production to where it can add 10,000 3-D Images per month, Festa says.

Wayfair produces 3-D product images in two ways:  The first way is via its in-house 3-D scanner, which the retailer built itself. The retailer places a product on a turntable and several cameras take pictures of the item from different angles. The turntable rotates and the cameras take more pictures. On average, each 3-D image requires 150 pictures. This process takes 10 to 15 minutes, Festa says.

The other way is having Wayfair, employees draw it. Depending on the complexity of the object, this could take anywhere from a few hours to days, Festa says.

The e-retailer determines which products would be good candidates for scanning, such as complex and highly textured objects, and products that are easily drawn, such as items with sharp edges and geometric shapes, Festa says.

advertisement

Six employees worked on this augmented reality, 3-D scanning project. One developer worked on the project full-time, while the others helped throughout, Festa says. It took the team about five or six months to develop the 3-D feature, he says. For this project Wayfair purchased several Tango developer kits and the cameras for the 3-D scanner.

Wayfair is not expecting an immediate return on its investment, Festa says.

“Over time, once it becomes a common technology, this is another way for customers to have more confidence in their buying because they can see it visually in their space,” he says.

Initially, Wayfair will market the WayfairView app to professionals, such as interior designer and suppliers. These professionals are more likely than consumers to purchase a Google Tango device for their business, Festa says.

Favorite

advertisement