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No More Malls: 5 Disruptive Techs Transforming Retail

augmented reality

Five technologies are converging to transform the retail shopping experience forever.

This is big. This isn’t Amazon, it’s Amazon x100. Very social, very local and very efficient.

This will impact multiple industries.

Though it applies to other retail, the example I’ll share in this email is clothes shopping — specifically, a new approach that will give you back massive amounts of time in your life and make the experience fun, fast and super-personalized.

Gone are the wasted hours in dressing rooms or combing through racks and finding nothing in your preferred size or style.

The five converging technologies are:
1. 3D imaging
2. Body-motion sensors
3. Virtual reality headsets
4. Virtual worlds
5. Big data & AI

Let me give you a glimpse of the future.

Of course this doesn’t just hit clothing. It hits every element related to retail, like buildings, labor and transportation.

First, let’s look at the experience, and then we’ll examine the tech behind it.

THE FUTURE RETAIL EXPERIENCE
Here’s one future of clothes shopping…

You won’t drive to a store. Ever.

Eventually, clothing stores will go away, dematerialized and significantly demonetized — just like Amazon has done to most bookstores.

Your body is scanned and the data file is private. It’s your exact body on that exact day.

You put on your VR goggles, and appear in a virtual store. Zero time to get there. No traffic, no parking hassles, no walking across the mall to get to the store.

You enter YOUR personal clothing store. Everything in this store is your exact size. Everything fits. The store has every designer and every design on the planet. Forget “re”tail – this is “me”tail.

Your friend, who you called a few minutes ago, joins you via their VR headset, and he or she sees everything you see. The experience is social and fun.

You voice what you’re looking for: “Red high-heeled shoes to match my new dress, which has a long black skirt.” Suddenly (think the movie Matrix), racks of perfectly fitting products appear like magic.

You can ask an AI advisor (online and listening) for help.Presto, a fashion show materializes before your very eyes. Every model walking down the runway looks like you and is wearing a different combination of clothing.

When you see an outfit you like, you just point and instantly, your virtual self is wearing it. No frustration of getting undressed or dressed. Mirrors all around allow you to see your virtual self from every angle.

As you move in real life, your virtual reflection the mirror moves in exact sync. It feels and looks just like you are looking at yourself in the mirror.

You wonder aloud how these virtual shoes would look with a particular blouse in your closet at home. No problem: every piece of physical clothing you own in the real world is also available for you to wear in this virtual world. You ask, and instantly you’re wearing it.

When you’re done, and you have the exact, perfect clothes you need, you pay the bill and your clothes arrive the next day. (And, if the warehouse or robotic manufacturer is local, perhaps the same day.)

Oh, and by the way, the cost for an outfit is at least half of what they are today — no middle man.

THE TECH BEHIND IT
Let’s begin with 3D imaging. It’s now possible to have your body 3D imaged from head to toe at a sub-millimeter accuracy, showing every ripple of muscle or cellulite, to allow the perfect-fitting jeans or shoes.

How? This technology is breaking out (from deceptive to disruptive) right now. First, it may be derivatives of Microsoft’s Kinect, or Google’s new Project Tango. As Google demonstrated in February, this technology gives smartphones the ability to do realistic 3D mapping. Your phone will be able to create 250 million 3D measurements per second to build a 3D model.

Next, body motion sensors. Imagine wearing low-cost, lightweight sensors that pick up your body’s precise movements and replicate them perfectly in a virtual world. As you raise your arms, twirl around, flex your muscles or do your best runway walk, the sensors gather real-time data and reflect those movements in a virtual world.

This technology exists. Developed originally for the video game world, PrioVR came out of, naturally, a successful Kickstarter campaign (see PrioVR in action here: www.priovr.com).

Next, let’s consider the future of virtual reality worlds. In past blogs I’ve mentioned my friend Philip Rosedale, the creator of Second Life. His new company High Fidelity is working towards creating virtual worlds with the fidelity of James Cameron’s movie Avatar. Remember how beautiful and real that animation looked? Imagine stepping into that world from your living room.

The next piece of tech is the Oculus Rift VR headset — virtual reality goggles you wear to enter into a virtual world. I recently wrote about this company, started by Palmer Luckey. Just 18 months after a $2.5 million Kickstarter campaign in Aug 2012, Facebook acquired Oculus VR for $2 billion. From what I’ve seen, their next generation of headgear, DK2, is nothing less than spectacular (check it out here: www.oculusvr.com).

Big data and artificial intelligence are the final pieces of converging technology. Imagine data on every piece of clothing available in the world, and artificial intelligence (think IBM’s Watson) able to understand and advise you on fashion and fashion trends.

HOW YOU CAN LEARN MORE
So that’s it: A glimpse at clothes shopping in the future.

This is the sort of content and conversations we discuss at Abundance 360 — the convergence of technology leading to the dematerialization, demonetization and democratization of products, services and industries.

How would you prepare your business and your family if you knew what the future would look like today?

If you’d like personal coaching from me on this and want to learn more, head to www.a360.com. And if you want a deep dive into any of these technologies, consider coming to Singularity University’s Executive Programs.

Share this email with your friends, especially if they love to shop or are in the retail industry.

We are living toward incredible times where the only constant is change, and the rate of change is increasing.

[Credits: portrait of man courtesy of Shutterstock]

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15 comments

  • samnomad says:

    People want to look like fashion models. So more sales would result if the person saw an idealized version of themselves. Make this adjustable from Twiggy to Honey Boo Boo (or worse! :) )
    Also there is no perfect fit. Throughout the year the body size changes. Bigger after vacations and women’s sizes change with the monthly cycle.

  • Andrew Atkin
    Andrew Atkin says:

    Body scanning for clothes? Yes. That makes excellent sense.
    VR? I don’t think so…not for clothes. You don’t need it, so it would just be annoying. More realistic for certain appliances.

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention driverless mico-cars for cheap and rapid delivery. This, with the internet, is what’s going to redefine retail and sales most of all. And later it will redefine much of our industrial operations as it provides a go-anywhere production line.

    • hjalmar says:

      agree that “driverless micro-cars” is one of the first “disruptive” techs that will show up. I think that small delivery cars are much more usable than flying drones for delivery. They can carry larger objects, a few pizzas, your groceries etc would be no problem. Pluss their range is far larger than flying drones. I suspect it’ll be easier to get permission to use them to. They can’t fall in your head.

    • Javier Lopez says:

      I agree. Scan your body then view the hilarious image of yourself on the shopping software loaded to your home entertainment big screen at home. Next, while slouching comfortably on your couch, use micro-gestures to browse latest fashion statement overlay options much like current tablet based apps. It’s more AR than VR.

      Once you’ve checked out the winning design from all angles and you’re happy with all the customisation you’ve tweaked, then hit the order button. Your custom robo-tailored garments will instantly go into production and be slated for delivery the next day.

      Or we could just skip the pleasantries and fast forward to dystopian sci-fi movie chic donning identical, same color, one size fits all, zip-up overalls. Nothing like a dose of futuristic minimalism and drab pragmatism to improve efficiency!

      Micro-cars? Just automate regular sized delivery trucks with optimised routes. They can carry a lot more per trip so why not?

      • Andrew Atkin
        Andrew Atkin says:

        Micro-cars are much faster and much more efficient. With a large vehicle, you have to use it like a bus – stop-and-go the entire 3-tonne vehicle for a single pick-up/drop-off, and will require manning, and on average will be heavily under-loaded (massive laden weight to payload ratios) .

        A fraction of the total energy will be required for freight broken down into many small units that go direct to their customer. Also you get better utility out of each small vehicle due to improved origin-to-destination operational speeds.

        Long-haul freight is a bit different though. For the latter you will stack containers together from the micro cars (robotically) onto large pallets.

        http://andrewatkin.blogspot.co.nz/2012/12/thoughts-for-driverless-revolution.html

        • Javier Lopez says:

          I guess I’m not sure what you mean by micro cars. If you mean something like a Smart mini-car then I’m not convinced that it’s any quicker or more efficient at deliveries than a regular van.

          Of course, we could just wait until next year to see Amazon’s Prime Air delivery drones in action! They may be a gimmick at first, but if successful could end up being the best way to deliver individual packages as quickly as possible, as the crow flies so to speak.

          Can you imagine our skies filled with the little blighters, buzzing back and forth between warehouses and customers. I’m sure they could handle light items of clothing someday too. If you order more than one drone can carry, maybe a whole bunch of them could club together swarm-style to airlift your hefty package. And I’m only half kidding about that last statement.

          Interesting site by the way. I agree with much of what you posted on autocars.

          • Andrew Atkin
            Andrew Atkin says:

            Javier,

            I mean cars that are about the size of a vacuum cleaner – really small. The crippling problem with those drones you speak of is noise. 1 or 2 would be a novelty – a city filled with them would drive us all nuts. It’s a sharp sound and the noise is not diffused (direct line between emitter and receiver) which makes it so much more intense. Air drones will be good for a more rural application, I believe.

  • Javier Lopez says:

    I don’t know, I used to like the idea of online shopping, but more and more I reserve online for digital downloads only.

    For everything else, I’ve gone back to shopping local, whether it’s electronic goods or clothes. There’s nothing like the feeling of walking into your favorite stores where people recognize you and remember your preferences. I like to physically interact with the products through sight, sound, touch, smell and even taste if they’re giving away free samples of cheese!

    In general, I find the assistance from the shopkeeper or staff to be friendly, useful, knowledgeable and of great help when deciding on which product to choose. Again, it helps if they know you personally.

    I like the idea that I’m supporting local trade. Amazon are doing well enough from my digital book purchases. The above article appears to be contented with the idea of the further decimation of local services and stores. These local business owners happen to make up a considerable proportion of the workforce.

    Automate retail, transportation and other services and I hope you have a rigorous plan in place to absorb the millions of displaced workers. I like the idea of a Basic Income for all, but will it be implemented quickly enough and in sufficient quantities to take up the slack?

    The way I see it, even the millions of online entrepreneurs will face their day of reckoning as more and more online services become automated and drive each other to obsolescence. As elsewhere, the smaller fish will find it harder to compete with the big sharks and their algorithms as time goes by.

    And another thing, good luck with getting the general population suiting up with hefty VR goggles at home! Even gamers aren’t overly excited about them, and they were the target market.

    When we have powerful, affordable, lightweight, stylish glasses or lenses that can switch from high definition AR to VR at will, then you’ll have a multi-purpose product that will sell like hotcakes, put mobile phones and other screen based tech to shame, and revolutionize the world of commerce, education and pretty much everything else.

  • GaryFrank says:

    This setup seems like it would be a male dominated process. Most females I know enjoy the experience of shopping, it is a very social event spent with other female friends. I am generalizing of course, there are all kinds of exceptions… Me? I like this type of setup because I really dislike spending time in retail stores. I personally know a lot of males like me… They want to go in and get out quickly. However, I can imagine how these technologies will be used to enhance the experience for female shoppers.

  • Mahmoud Amandine-Jade says:

    Very surprised that 3D Printing hasn’t been mentionned.
    “Feetz” made-to-order printed shoes will already be a reality in few months.

  • Ofay Cat says:

    But what of the millions worked in the retail sector and the yoots who learned how to work by selling stuff over a counter? What of all those support professions who keep the infrastructure of the retail world intact and in good repair?

    What reason will people have to go out in public if not to shop the stores? Sounds like most folks will be in their homes and apartments ordering stuff on line while the rest of us will be working in giant ware houses for minimum wage where we will shop stuff that was made in China or India because NOTHING in made in America anymore … the environmentalists won’t allow it.

    • Ofay Cat says:

      Oops that should read …
      “where we will SHIP stuff that was made in China or India because …”

    • Andrew Atkin
      Andrew Atkin says:

      Because people want to go out, they will. It will be more entertainment and parks, etc, and product showcases. Where there is demand the suppliers will follow.

      USA is going through a manufacturing boom. Though it’s more sophisticated – heavily automated. Much of the buying from China is just an end-point of a long supply chain, often an international supply chain.

  • Ofay Cat says:

    The real question of the future shopper will be ..
    “Does this VR shopping software make my ass look big?”

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