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WebAR and its role as a building block for the next stage of the internet

November 22, 2022
minutes read

Dan Frith (VP of 3D at Avataar) and Kevin Joyce (Global Partner for Psychic VR) were hosted by Rory Greener at the XR Summit 2022. Some interesting excerpts from their conversation:-

Rory: We are experiencing the democratization of augmented reality content creation through low-code and no-code builders. With that context, can you explain the benefits that are currently associated with the AR XR industry? 

Kevin: AR and VR are going to disrupt everyday life in multiple ways. It is an open battleground for now, with no set-in-stone rules. We are discovering new use cases every day, so bringing in more people and minds into thinking about AR will help break the existing barriers. The development of these experiences is no more restricted to massive corporations but to anyone with ideas of what they want, empowered by platforms that allow them to create great experiences. 

Dan: The biggest challenge for AR is the enormous need for content and how to get that content out on various platforms and products like the metaverse. Standardization groups like Khronos are important to set the way for all content creators to get content on AR platforms and move away from bespoke formats, as traditional methods of creating 3D assets can be challenging for high content volumes. This will allow AR technology to be put into the hands of everyone - like my dad trying to put a picture on the wall or my kids using AR to play different types of games. 

 Rory:  How do the off-the-shelf real-time 3D engines fit into the mix with WebAR?

Dan: 3D engines are powerful as they enable users to create worlds & assets and also allow importing and exporting them. They are beneficial especially for people who are developing their own metaverse worlds, content and products. But these systems often tie you into their own ecosystem, making interoperability a challenge. 

Kevin: I agree, the engines are powerful for people who want to create immersive artistic content and create complicated scenarios in AR/VR. But it's difficult if you need to spend tens of thousands of pounds learning how to use them. With low-code or no-code content creation, there is enough documentation out there to enable anyone who is interested to build it themselves over time. And that blends with the democratization vision. One can learn in steps, starting with no-code, moving into low-code and visual scripting, and then essentially building one’s own knowledge bank from scratch.

Rory: Great. So let's move on to onboarding. Can you discuss the importance of educating customers as well as your clients on where they are, as well as the supporting platforms and related immersive tech? 

Kevin:  The platform that I work with - Styly is an AR & VR art platform has another brand called Newview, and as part of Newview we run a school every summer that gives artists from different domains such as fashion, television, music production the tools they need to bring AR and VR to their existing experiences. For example - creating VR music videos to supplement already created music, fashion designers recreating garments that they've made in real life. So we are offering people the tools they need to make these small scale experiences that fit their industry and needs. Also by bringing people into AR and VR and educating them about the current limitations, we are setting the right expectations and letting them know that a lot of progress is still to be made to make metaverse a success. However, one can create spaces which people will want to visit, one can create technology that will help people, but it's not what you're seeing in Hollywood just yet.

Dan:  I think we at Avataar find that we are coming across a mixed bag of knowledge. We work with clients who are hugely experienced in the space as well as some clients who may be less experienced. We also come across many bespoke needs.  We brainstorm and understand their particular problem statements and how we can support them with a solution. We have a CMS tool, an engine, a platform, a way of automatic conversion. Some clients want the 2D to 3D tech, some clients want the total end-to-end package, some want just the 2D to 3D engine, some want a CMS and 2D to 3D engine. So there's a lot of education happening both internally and externally, with customers and clients and I think that we have to collaborate and partner on technology and development with a lot of companies. People are seeing huge traction and differences in revenues when they are digitizing their businesses, all around the world. CEOs of these companies know the need for digitization and understand that they have to change direction but there’s a lot of management, education and training required for adoption of 3D and digitization.

Rory: Fantastic. I think that's some brilliant food for thought. Just to round stuff up, I would like to ask, can WebAR as well as immersive technology like try-on, NFTs, and crypto, change the buyers’ journey? Is this something that we are seeing today? And what are your predictions for WebAR’s future in the buyers’ journey?

Dan:  It already is, as we are seeing 3.5x uplift in conversions and substantial increase in sales when buyers are using WebAR content or platforms & products. Buyers are spending considerable average time on interactive 3D products as compared to 2D imagery. It is important to look at the camera as the homepage, making interactive AR as the default. Google has made large investments in making interactive 3D assets and they are starting to appear on the default search homepages.

This tidal wave of metaverse is coming and it's changing experiences. There is another thing as well about configuring and customizing because static images and the way we used to shop through photography weren't very customizable, bespoke and tailored to individual needs.

In Avataar and before in IKEA as well, we saw a huge difference in people's buying mindsets when you could take their home into a store and store into a home. People could place products in their spaces and move them around which actually inspired them to buy other complimentary products.

Rory: Kevin, do you agree with that? 

Kevin: I believe that AR is gonna completely revolutionize retail within 10 years. For example, for those of us out there who have children - our children will be buying their trainers using AR images. My kid will be holding her phone over her shoes or her glasses and scanning the size of her feet.  She'll click a button to purchase an NFT, where that NFT will represent her reservation for those trainers when they actually go into production. That's firmly my belief. NFT is gonna become a representation of a real world item. 

Dan: I believe that the mobile phone era will slowly fade out and that it'll become wearable like adjustable lenses. You could wear something that's interacting with your world and it's customized for you. This will be the world in which people buy products, interact with products and navigate their world. I'm actually really excited about that and it's gonna be how we interact with the world moving forward.  

When wearable technology is here, it will change everything. I'm walking down the street and then I have a thought - “Oh, I didn't buy bin bags for home”. I will just speak it out loud. “Hey glasses, can you please order those bin bags for me?” And it'll go “ding” and add and it'll just be something that will make the world so interactive.

Kevin: What we're talking about is not just limited to retail and education. It can be artistic or as Dan mentioned, adding reminders to go buy bin bags. Anything and everything could be changed by this technology. It's just a matter of being brave enough to do it, to have those ideas. This is circling back to the whole no-code and low-code discussion. Where are we gonna get the ideas to do these? By having more people with different backgrounds and different ideas coming into this space. Give everybody a chance to make something.

Dan: Avataar has been developing neural radiance field technology (NeRF) to generate implicit 3D models and scanning capabilities that will enable anyone to take product scans using any mobile device. Imagine if we could do that through a set of glasses. If I want to get my real world product into my virtual world, I can just look at it and move around it, get that scan and then suddenly I've got a 3D representation of it. Then I could effectively live my second life or in my real world or I could merge the two together. The important thing here is, what I like about wearables, is the fact that you can switch in and out of these environments. It's gonna be really interesting to see how people start because you have always seen, in these technologies people become creative and do something different. When that scanning technology or the tech Kevin spoke about is available to everyone, it will be fascinating to see how people transform the world around us. 

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