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Trying On Shoes In Augmented Reality?

By Mitzi A. Dillon (Guest Blogger)

The emergence of augmented reality has become one of the biggest tech stories of 2017. And it’s particularly fun because it’s accessible – unlike most virtual reality. VR tends to require equipment, and if you want it to be any good, that equipment is going to be expensive. The best headsets costs hundreds of dollars, and require game systems and PCs to operate anyway. AR is different because it’s being unveiled via smartphone and nothing else. Apple, which has made the biggest headlines in this category, has said that it wants developers to make iOS into the largest AR platform in the world.

So how could fashion and specifically shoes come into play? Let’s think first about how AR entertainment has come about. It’s been a more gradual process than many realize, and sheds some light on how fashion could get into the game.

One gaming app that’s interesting to look back on briefly is The Room. A puzzle game with mystery and narrative elements, it’s one of the more beloved mobile games of the past several years, adored by critics and users alike. And as at least one review noted, it featured a faux three-dimensional room that was fun to explore. This was a game in which players moved around a virtual room focusing on objects in its center – much like AR now works, with the exception that the room is a real place. It was almost like a prototype for AR gaming.

We can also see similar comparisons developing in other types of games. Casino titles are certainly among those to watch, because they’ve already transitioned to more realistic quality, with an ever-growing library of 3D games becoming available. As with The Room, some of these games now function as if actual gaming tables and machines are sitting in front of us, and the transition to AR from that point is smooth, natural, and impressive.

You may begin to get the picture that AR didn’t simply spring up. It’s a new technology insofar as it’s being infused with existing smartphones. But idea-wise it’s a natural progression from where games of all different kinds have been heading for quite some time now. This is important to recognize when we consider the technology’s potential impact on fashion (and for the purposes of this article, shoe shopping!).

Think about how online shopping has changed in the past decade. Once upon a time you could only browse items. You could order different sizes and styles, but your actual menu, so to speak, typically consisted of rows of images of different products. At best, you might have seen some photos of models wearing some of those products, so that you could get a general idea of what a pair of shoes or an outfit might look like being worn. But that, not so very long ago, was about it.

Since then, however, shoe and clothing shopping online has gotten a little bit easier in ways we tend to take for granted. Consider, for example, that you can sometimes highlight an item, zoom in or out on it, and rotate it to see it from different angles. For some types of accessories, you can also upload a photograph of yourself (or simply your dimensions) and see a crude but helpful simulation of what you would look like wearing them. These are simple features, but ones that get us closer to “trying on” or handling items when we’re shopping online.

And just as immersive games that strived for 3D effects are now transitioning to AR, we’re liable to see the same with shoes and clothing. The idea of AR being used in fashion retail is one that’s actually been discussed a lot. But with shoes, it could be particularly interesting! Imagine being able to hold your foot out and aim your mobile camera at it until a shoe or boot you’re considering materializes virtually as if it’s actually on your foot. This is going to be a realistic situation in very short time.

So get ready! Next time you need shoes, you might be able to try them on through your phone screen before buying.

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