Overstock.com Inc. updated its iOS app on Tuesday to enable shoppers to view thousands of products in augmented reality.
The new functionality makes use of ARKit, a new Apple Inc. tool that aims to simplify the process for developers to add augmented reality capabilities to their apps.
The augmented reality functionality is available to consumers who have downloaded Apple’s iOS 11 operating system, which launched today. The AR technology allows shoppers to view to-scale objects on the screens of their smartphones.
“We’ve long known that augmented reality was a game-changer in the online furniture and home decor space, but when Apple announced their ARKit as part of the iOS11 update, it was clear that this was the platform we’d been waiting for to launch our AR experience,” says Jaime Wilson, senior director, product development, who led the project for Overstock.
Overstock integrated augmented reality into its app to allow shoppers to see how products look within the context of their home, which is often a pain point of shopping for furniture both online and in stores, says Overstock.com president Saum Noursalehi.
“Shoppers no longer have to guess how a piece of furniture will fit in their room or if a pattern will match their existing design style,” Noursalehi says. “Instead, they can use their phones to see the exact product in their actual room, helping them make the most informed purchase decision.”
Here’s how it works: An Overstock shopper opens the app and from the home screen can tap on an icon that has all of the 3-D products available and browses from there. Shoppers can also browse normally.
If a product is available in augmented reality, a shopper can tap the View in My Room button on the product page within the app. The app then launches the smartphone camera. The product is placed in the shopper’s room where she can move it around the screen with her finger. She can add the product to her cart or purchase the item within the AR screen using Apple Pay with one touch.
Overstock’s app also incorporates machine learning technology, which is software that learns over time the more shoppers use it, to offer product suggestions to shoppers. When a shopper is in augmented reality mode, the camera scans the room and its existing decor and offers product recommendations that coordinate.
Overstock has thousands of its top-selling furniture, rugs and home decor products available to view in augmented reality, and it hopes to eventually have the majority of its more than 3 million products available, Wilson says. However, making a product available in 3-D that is to-scale takes time. For the initial launch, it took Overstock’s full mobile app team of nine employees, which includes development, product and design, two months to build the feature.
For the product models, Overstock used 3-D models from its suppliers when available, used 3-D modeling studios and built some models in-house, Wilson says.
“Every model on sight has been reviewed by a human to ensure the quality is up to par, and we’ll continue to do so until our machine learning technology supporting the app is available to automate the process,” she says.
Shoppers can use the AR features if they have an iPhone 6s or later that is updated to run the new iOS 11 software. However, the AR technology works the best on the just-released iPhone X, which has depth-sensing cameras that the other smartphone models don’t have.