Smitten by futuristic technology, consumer internet companies are increasingly working with small tech firms that build products to make the user’s buying process as real as going to the shop. Augmented and virtual reality, the technologies that make this possible, use multiple data like images, audios and videos linked with other interactive information, including 3D images, to give a perception of reality to users.
With the use of this technology, consumer internet companies are able to let shoppers experience how a product, such as apparel, eye wear or furniture, will look or fit them in real time. Companies claim that buyers can decide faster and wisely what product they want to buy using such technology. A lot of such companies are either acquiring or working in partnership with AR and VR start-ups. This month, PropTiger, the four-year-old property listing website, acquired OoBI (Out of Box Interactions) for an undisclosed amount to create visualisation tools to boost its app.
The Bengaluru-based OoBI creates multi-purpose screens installed at points of sale to mimic a real experience of seeing or being present in a house. PropTiger will port OoBI’s technology onto its website to enhance users’ buying experience. “We want to make the home buying business hassle free and as convenient as possible. OoBI will help us in adding a new dimension to our customer’s home search process by making digital information more tangible and interactive,” said Dhruv Agarwala, co-founder and CEO, PropTiger.
In February, Commonfloor launched a physical product, Retina, which uses artificial reality to show its users houses and properties without visiting them. Retina is essentially a head gear made of a cardboard box that connects with the user’s phone and its own app to show listed properties from the comfort of one’s house. “Our internal research says a typical property buyer travels more than 300 kilometres and spends eight to nine months to find a house. They spend a lot of time and effort to select or reject properties. After seeing the houses from the Retina headgear, users can cut their house hunting time,” said Sumit Jain, co-founder, Commonfloor. However, property hunters will have to buy the Retina device, priced at R899, to use this service. Retina users can only see properties from Commonfloor that are linked with the app. Jain said there are currently 150 enabled properties and he plans to add 2,000 by the end of this year. Most companies have a separate team to work on such innovations. Retina was built in-house by a team of 15-20 software and hardware engineers. Jain, however, refused to give details on the budget allocated for it.
In 2014, online furniture retailer Urban Ladder announced the launch of UL Labs to work with AR and VR start-ups on project basis to build innovative solutions. Every quarter, the company works on one such project. PropTiger’s acquisition of OoBI is also in line with its plan to build a team that will work exclusively on building such technology. “We intend to look for further acquisition to augment our product and bring better technological innovations. This is part of our strategy for growth,” said Agarwala.
Rajiv Srivatsa, co-founder, Urban Ladder, said there is a lot of development happening regarding the technique and a lot of investment will be seen too, but none of it has still made it to the mainstream. “People still see it as a hindrance due to apprehension. The technology is also very heavy, which essentially means that it requires a lot of processing power and heavy mega bits of data if you want to put it in a device. With Indian internet connections, users can’t keep downloading the data. So it needs to be really light and the requirement of its use should also be minimal,” he added.