With new iOS, Ottawa’s Shopify leans into augmented reality commerce


After long touting augmented reality as the future of commerce, Ottawa-based Shopify is hoping to make good on its word this week, pushing AR capabilities for merchants with the latest version of iOS.

Apple’s latest operating system, releasing Monday, has the ability to drop virtual 3D objects into real-world spaces through your device’s camera. While the technology has been popular in mobile games such as Pokémon Go, Apple’s AR Quick Look works through a browser without the need to download the app. With that barrier to entry dropped, the technology’s potential could open up to other mainstream uses – commerce chief among them.

In a blog post announcing the platform’s features, Shopify’s head of virtual reality Daniel Beauchamp writes about how one merchant, Los Angeles-based Pure Cycles, has used the technology. Prospective customers can model a bike from home, accurately rendering the heights and looks of various models.

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“AR and VR will fundamentally change the way we shop,” Beauchamp said earlier this year. “Shopping experiences that use AR that allow you to preview products in your home before buying them are things that are available now and more and more will be coming out.”

CEO Tobi Lütke took to Twitter to celebrate Shopify’s latest milestone. He said that the AR view badge would now be regarded as “the most powerful icon in online retail.”

Merchants interested in getting 3D models of their products can do so through the company’s services marketplace by submitting a job request to a Shopify expert. Costs for AR modelling start at US$100, according to the firm’s website.

Shopify has long been a champion of AR and VR’s utility for merchants. Back in 2017, Beauchamp was espousing the virtues of virtual reality at Ottawa’s Capital Gaming Expo. Back then he gave the example buying a tent and being able to walk inside and see how well your family would fit before setting down money and being disappointed in the buy.

Retail analysts have said the advent of virtual commerce will be a game changer for people living in rural and remote communities and online shoppers who are hesitant to buy from 2D renderings alone. Shopify has also signalled that future iterations of this tech could include store assistants wearing their own VR headsets to virtually guide you through the buying experience.

By the way, if bikes aren’t your thing, you can also use AR to check out a 3D replica of the “Seinfeld” set. It may not be real, but it’s still spectacular.

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