Every once in a while, I run into a situation where shopping using AR actually makes sense. Trying on Warby Parker glasses, for example, or test-driving virtual Ikea furniture. Usually, it's more like casual window-shopping or browsing. Apple's ARKit is aiming to move past that and make the experience turn into more buying, too.
Home Depot, Wayfair, Bang & Olufsen and 1-800-Flowers are the first companies to build extra links and buttons into Apple's pop-up AR tools on iOS. The added features were announced last June at Apple's WWDC conference as part of one of many improvements to Apple's iOS augmented reality toolkit, but shopping experiences hadn't started incorporating these extra features until now.
These AR shopping tools don't require an app. They show up in Safari and link out to tools that use the camera viewfinder in a mode called AR Quick Look, which lots of apps already use. The added buttons in AR amount to links that are a faster shortcut to a shopping cart, or a store locator, or in the case of Home Depot, to chatting with customer service. It also allows anyone to drop Apple Pay buy buttons into an AR window.
AR Quick Look is a way for 3D objects to appear across iOS. Later this year, Apple will add spatial audio capability to AR Quick Look -- that new feature is already available in iOS 13's latest beta. Expect shopping sites and other AR-enabled experiences outside of apps, to add audio later on this year. We may even see Google-searchable animals.
Much like Google's service-oriented AR tools, which the company launched last year, these new AR shopping add-ons look to make trying on virtual shoes (or fitting glasses or sizing furniture) slide into the rest of whatever you might be doing while shopping instead of feeling like a pop-out experience. Could this mean more companies leaning on AR for shopping? We'll see.
Apple should eventually release its own pair of AR glasses. When that day comes, there will be need to be ways to figure out how to make AR useful. Figuring out how to better blend AR with other tools (such as connecting to a chat for extra help or dropping an object into a shopping cart) is a clear step on that path. We're getting closer, every day, to that Fight Club scene about Ikea.