Wayfair Unveils "Mixed Reality" Commerce with Magic Leap One Headset

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US ecommerce home goods retailer Wayfair has launched the world's first "mixed reality" shopping experience with the VR/AR headset Magic Leap One.

The technology blends virtual reality (VR) with augmented reality (AR), as shoppers wear a headset to view real physical spaces that become augmented with digital objects. The first-of-its-kind commerce experience brings the search and discovery of furniture and home decor off the computer screen and into the home, allowing shoppers to browse selected items from Wayfair's catalog through a boundless digital display and bring them to life in a real physical space.

The experience is powered by Magic Leap's browser called Helio, which the company bills as the first-ever spatial computing web browser.

(Image source: magicleap.com)

A Truly Immersive Shopping Experience

The experience that Wayfair has created allows users to browse a limited set of products in Helio, and in effect pull them straight out of the browser and place them into the physical world via AR while wearing the Magic Leap One headset. In practice, this means a shopper can pluck the image of a chair or a couch out of the Wayfair website, and place a 3D rendition of it directly in his/her living room. The shopper is then able to move and rotate the item around the room, and then add more 3D furniture to experiment with different looks and layouts to design the entire space.

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"As the leader in home, Wayfair has always been on the forefront of introducing next-generation technologies to our millions of customers," said Wayfair's Co-Founder and Co-Chairman Steve Conine. "With Magic Leap, we are setting a new precedent for a truly immersive shopping experience leveraging the power of mixed reality and the ease of web."

Aside from using the mixed reality features to view products, shoppers are also able to browse the web and make purchases while wearing the Magic Leap One headset.

(Image source: tech.wayfair.com)

Breaking the Boundaries of Traditional Ecommerce

Wayfair has been experimenting with augmented and virtual reality technologies for a while - and for good reason. Shopping for furniture online requires consumers to be able to visualize items in the desired space, and AR and VR provide those capabilities.

Last year, Wayfair (along with other furniture retailers such as Overstock.com, Houzz, and Buil.com) introduced an AR app for iOS devices, with an Android equivalent following a few months later. Then, in early 2018, Wayfair was one of the first to partner with Facebook for 3D image posting, which allows consumers to view images of furniture from all angles directly within the Facebook newsfeed.

"Since day one, Wayfair has been committed to transforming the shopping experience for home - reimagining what's possible in a category that is driven by visual imagery, inspiration and discovery," said Conine. "To that end, we're constantly innovating to create an experience that allows our customers to find and engage with their favorite furniture and decor products in new and exciting ways."

As furniture sales are a rapidly-growing area of ecommerce, Wayfair is doing all it can to make consumers feel comfortable purchasing expensive items from the web that they can't see, touch, and feel before they arrive at the door.

However, there is a sticking point with the new mixed reality (MR) experience offered by Wayfair - the price tag on the Magic Leap One headset. The glasses start at $2,295, excluding many from the experience from the outset. So, if Wayfair's bet on MR pays off, it's safe to say that it will take a while to do so. Nonetheless, if mixed reality does indeed become the future of online shopping - and perhaps even web browsing in general - Wayfair will have a massive head start on the competition.

Final Thoughts

Wayfair believes in technology and innovation, and also that everyone should live in a home they love. In its commitment to delighting customers every step of the way, Wayfair is attempting to break the boundaries of traditional ecommerce with its first-of-its-kind mixed reality concept, providing a whole new platform for in-home product visualization. The price of the Magic Leap One is undoubtedly a huge boundary, but it could well be providing us with a vision of what the future of online shopping will look like.

As Conine puts it: "Together with the MR experts at Magic Leap, Wayfair has developed a completely new way to shop for home with a spatial browsing experience that will shape the next evolution of retail."

Augmented and virtual reality technology is set to be a hot topic at eTail West 2019, taking place this coming February at the JW Marriott, Palm Springs, CA.

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