With only a few lines of embed code, NexTech can offer AR ecommerce experiences on any website, through any browser. Chief executive officer Evan Gappelberg breaks it down for VRWorldTech
ARitized—remember the word, trademarked by Next AR Solutions, the augmented reality (AR) company quickly shaping up to be a pioneer within online shopping, because it describes the act of taking a two-dimensional (2D) object, say a pair of glasses, and turning it into something three-dimensional (3D), and all of the possibilities that implies. Trying them on, seeing how they look on your face, jumping between styles and colours, all from the comfort of your own home. The internet is no longer an interface—it’s on your face.
NexTech launched in January 2018, quickly securing $3 million in funding and getting to work on its web-enabled AR platform, which came to market in November of last year. What followed was a savvy pairing of technologies and capabilities, with the acquisition of the VCM business owned by AR Ecommerce in January of this year.
With 2019 ahead, the acquisition of an established ecommerce business provided NexTech with the opportunity to generate immediate revenue, while also offering a platform to showcase its own web-enabled AR and artificial intelligence (AI) solutions to key partners and well-known brands.
Evan Gappelberg, chief executive officer of NexTech, says: “We now have this fully formed platform, where, with only a few lines of embed code, we can offer AR ecommerce experiences on any website, through any browser. It’s a universal solution.”
The Try-It-On AR experience for online shopping enables consumers to see what they would look like wearing glasses, headwear, jewellery and more. The solution uses facial tracking capabilities and AI-assisted computer vision technology. It tracks eyes, with support shortly to follow for lips, ears, mouths and other zones above the shoulder.
Once the Try-It-On technology is integrated into an online shopping site, consumers can begin ‘trying on’ items using the camera on their preferred desktop or mobile device. The technology can also be embedded and used in banner ads and social posts on Facebook as part of a digital marketing strategy to drive store traffic and convert shoppers into buyers.
It’s the AI aspect of NexTech’s platform—powered in this case by IBM Watson—that Gappelberg believes makes it different to anything else available in AR-enhanced shopping.
He explains: “Without that intelligence, AR would work, but it would be without a brain. It would be a 3D object that you could place and preview, like a lot of big shopping brands are currently offering. But there’s no AI in their functionality, it’s just an object. You can use AR without AI, but that intelligence adds a whole new level of features and functionality.”
Gappelberg continues: “It’s unique. We’re bringing intelligence to AR, and not many people are doing that. It’ll understand not just body shape, but facial expressions. So if you’re smiling, it’ll understand that you’re happy and add to cart. It’ll trigger buying because it’ll recognise you’re happy. What we’re planning to do is pair the AI with a hologram, so you’ll have a virtual assistant that’ll help you with your shopping. And it’ll be intelligent, so it’ll understand your likes and dislikes, based on your past purchasing decisions. And it’ll serve up products that appeal to you.”
“IBM Watson is the next big development we’re working on. We integrated some of the machine learning with Try-It-On and facial scanning, but we want to be able to scan the rest of the body. That’s the next milestone for us, in terms of the technology.”
The response from online retailers has been fantastic, Gappelberg says. “Our pipeline is bursting. We’re trying to keep that going and so are hiring more people and working on maintaining our momentum and scale-building. It’s all hands on deck.”
Indeed, NexTech announced in February that it had achieved milestone revenue generation for the month of January 2019. It also trades publicly on the Canadian Securities Exchange (NTAR) and just secured approval to trade on the OTCQB Market (NEXCF). Its customer conversion statistics, secured on behalf of its customers, are equally impressive.
Gappelberg says: “There has been an 11 times increase in conversions, meaning customers are 11 times more likely to purchase a product when they see it in AR. To give you an example, we ARitized a single vacuum cleaner site. Typically, that vacuum cleaner would generate $5,000 in revenue every month. It generated that amount in one week after we ARitized it. The solution pays for itself.”
What about the consumer? Is the average online shopper interested in being able to virtually try on an item of clothing, or place a 3D object in their home? Gappelberg believes so.
He says: “There’s a $30 trillion global marketplace for retail, and most consumer transactions are still happening in brick and mortar stores. And that’s because consumers want to ask questions and try products for themselves. All of that goes away with AR. You don’t have to go in anymore. You can do it all from home. It’s going to accelerate the adoption of online shopping.”
“And it gets even better because there is a $300 billion problem in online retail. Goods to that value are returned because they are the wrong size or colour. Those returns are reduced by 80% when this virtual Try-It-On technology is on the table.”
“We’re bringing the technology to online shopping sites that allows a consumer to shop from home and have a hologram and AI expert with them to help. Then they have the 3D object that they can interact with and place in a room and see how it looks. The technology bridges that gap between online and offline shopping.”
Online shopping remains a major area of focus for NexTech, but Gappelberg and his team are well aware of the potential of AR in other areas. “Next, we’re looking to launch our AR university for education and training, which will be as compelling as what we’re doing in ecommerce,” he says. “You’ll be able to teach and learn using 3D objects. That’s potentially very powerful.”
“And we’re working on live streaming and telepresence, where you can be a hologram talking to someone on the other side of the world. It could work for board meetings, or consider online dating. You’ve been talking to someone online and you want to meet each other, but you’re not sure. Why not do it as a hologram? The potential of this technology is only limited by your imagination.”
Evan Gappelberg is an accomplished entrepreneur with an expertise in creating, funding and running startups, with extensive experience both as a hands-on operating executive and as a public markets professional. Evan worked on Wall Street and has more than 20 years of experience as both a hedge fund manager and senior vice president of finance, where he underwrote Take Two Interactive Software (NASDAQ: TTWO), which has a current US market cap of over $10 billion.