Virtual reality still feels new. But at this point it’s been around for a few years, and the industry is already starting to involve in all kinds of interesting ways.
In mainstream VR, for one thing, we’re already starting to see chatter about what amounts to a “next gen” of headsets. There are fairly concrete rumors about a forthcoming PlayStation VR 2, and ordinary gaming consoles like the Xbox Two (release date unknown) will likely enhance the abilities of connected headsets as well. Throw in the fact that we’re also beginning to see the rollout of headsets that don’t need consoles or PCs to work, and the market for VR equipment in mid-2018 already looks quite different than it did a year ago.
In gaming, too, the landscape has shifted considerably. For the first year or so of VR most of what we saw was experimental. There were fairly limited games poking and prodding around to see what the medium was capable of. Then people started to push boundaries. Shooters (among the most popular games) became more sophisticated; a major online developer launched a VR version of the wildly popular casino game Gonzo’s Quest; and we started to see adaptations of major franchises like Fallout. In short: better games (like improved shooters), more genres (like casino gaming), and franchise potential (like Fallout).
And then, of course, the fall of 2017 brought along the introduction of a whole new sister medium to VR. Augmented Reality emerged as a simpler but in some cases equally exciting tech built for smartphones and tablets. The era of virtual reality became that of “mixed reality,” incorporating both VR and AR.
So – what does any of this have to do with fashion retail? Well, the above gives you an idea of the rapid evolution of mixed reality over the last two years. It’s worth considering it all from a gaming perspective because that’s still the driving force of the tech. But within that evolution we’ve also seen mixed reality used in plenty of areas of culture and society that have nothing to do with video games or entertainment. Most famously, perhaps, mobile AR arrived with numerous apps designed to help with interior design. But along the way fashion retail has become one of the main areas to watch for innovation.
Shopify actually wrote up a comprehensive overview to how retailers are using augmented reality, and while they weren’t focused specifically on fashion, they give you a good idea of what to expect. To summarize and expand on their points however, this is some of what we might soon be seeing:
Enhanced In-Store Experiences– The best example given for this concept comes from the cosmetics brand Charlotte Tilbury in London. This store created a “magic mirror” that would use augmented reality to scan customers’ faces and then present them with numerous examples of the brand’s best looks. This same experience can be modified for the whole body and basically any type of garment, and can give you a great idea of how you’d look in different options before you have to tangle yourself up in a pile of garments you might not buy in a tiny dressing room.
Store Experiences At Home – Aspects of the magic mirror concept actually work just fine at home as well, and we’ve already seen Lacoste and numerous other brands present their own AR experiences that allow people to virtually “try on” shoes and other accessories at home. It’s a little more difficult with whole outfits, though again a facial scan or body scan via an AR program can certainly be used to simulate looks on your screen.
Access To Fashion Events – This concept gets a little bit less attention, but for those who really get into high-end fashion or who want to take an active role in uncovering the best new looks, VR and AR could also have the power to provide remote access to, say, red carpet exhibitions or fashion runways. This technology can essentially reproduce these events in your own living room, such that you can see models and celebrities showing off their latest looks when you wouldn’t otherwise have access.
Customization Of Fashion Items– Again, there have been various innovations beyond gaming in mixed reality, and one that made itself apparent early on was that this technology can serve as its own creative medium. There are several VR and AR programs geared specifically toward creativity, and what amounts to virtual painting or sculpting. There’s nothing stopping these concepts from merging with fashion, such that you might actually be able to customize fashion items, see them in virtual space, and then order them from whatever store supports the app. It’s not something we’re seeing just yet, but it certainly seems to be a logical next step forward.
It’s all quite exciting overall. And while we’re skeptical of those who suggest it will completely overhaul the retail fashion industry, it’s certainly going to bring about a new level of convenience.