Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will fundamentally influence the future of the B2B and B2C customer journey. Decisive for the production as well as the user experience of this “new reality” is not only the right software but also a high-resolution camera.
One of the pioneers is the Panono brand from Professional360 GmbH. Their multi-award winning camera has the highest resolution in the world. Managing Director Thomas Escher observes a change of perspective in the use of AR tools among his customers. LEAD spoke to him about the development of new technologies.
LEAD: In three sentences: What is the difference between AR and VR?
Thomas Escher: AR is the reality, 1: 1 shown, but enriched with more details and additional information. For example, if you’re driving through the city, AR will show you the road as you see it through the window, in addition to showing you the speed that is allowed, for example. VR is, so to speak, the opposite – a reality that is completely re-created.
“AR is a must, especially in the high-priced segment”
LEAD: Why is AR suddenly becoming more of a focus for the user?
Escher: We depict reality more strongly than before, deal with it more and try to manipulate reality as well. For example on Instagram, where a lot depends on a perfect photo. The tendency to depict everything idealized on all electronic channels has risen sharply in recent years.
LEAD: AR should also revolutionize our shopping experience in the future. Which industries are particularly suitable here? Are there any specific products that are made for AR?
Escher: For some of our B2B customers, we are seeing a change from a nice-to-have to a must-have in AR. Especially in the construction sector and in the real estate sector, AR is increasingly being used. Here, AR is now a must, especially in the high-priced segment.
For example, if you buy a villa in Mallorca, you want to have a 360 degree view through all the rooms. AR will become more important in tourism as well, especially in the area of cruises, so everything becomes more transparent for the customer.
LEAD: What could AR afford from a marketing perspective, for example in e-commerce?
Escher: One of my favorite topics is the point-of-sale (POS), where we have just started a pilot project. The criticism of the POS is often that there is no impulse buying feeling is represented and thus sales is virtually given away. Our vision is to now portray a second sales channel via AR with Panono.
LEAD: How could that look like?
Escher: Imagine an exclusively online shoe store without local branches. The owner always starts an action with special goods, for example seasonal offers. One idea could be to set up a real sales room within the office space of the e-commerce provider, to refurbish it seasonally, to display it in high-quality 360-degree shots and to bring customers closer to action products in the virtual space.
LEAD: Where else does your 360-degree camera come from?
Escher: Our strength is the high quality of the pictures: the camera has the world’s largest resolution. For the private user, such a product is often too expensive, but in the B2B area, customers need such a high image quality for their solutions. One of our customers, for example, is working in the field of drilling rigs and uses our camera as a tool for its often very expensive conversion work on the only laboriously accessible and constantly changing platforms in the sea. Another customer fixes and documents building damage, for example during hurricanes. Here, the appraiser can get a 360-degree all-round view of the damage in advance and thus get an idea without being directly on site.
LEAD: Are there any disadvantages? What are the biggest challenges of the technology?
Escher: That’s the data size: 40 to 50 MB per photo can be created. Another challenge is 360-degree video, which takes up even more storage space. We also see 360-degree video as critical for specific applications. For example, at an outdoor concert, you want to see the artists and the stage, but you’re not interested in the rest of the environment – the benefits of a 360-degree video are not necessarily in proportion to the challenges of broadcasting large amounts of data.
For us, the subject of VR is the art of continuously developing company and software-based applications for users and of asking the question of strategic software partnerships in highly specialized B2B areas, for example for high-quality real estate tours.
LEAD: Take a look into the future: Will we only be shopping via AR / VR in ten years?
Escher: For the B2B sector, I would dare to say that AR tools are standard until then and are used by the vast majority. As far as the private user is concerned, this depends heavily on the software provider and their user-friendliness. VR will continue to grow safely in the VR eyewear business, especially in the gaming and erotic markets.
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