Over the last 15 years, the physical retail sector has taken a beating from online companies. Customers like the convenience of shopping from their own home efficiently and with minimum fuss. However, there is evidence to suggest consumers like shopping in real spaces, but don't like the inconvenience of things such as long lines.
Microsoft has shown it is not quite ready to give up on the physical shopping experience just yet. For example, last year we discussed the company's efforts to compete with Amazon Go. Microsoft is reportedly working on bringing an automated shopping experience to bricks and mortar locations.
As the company pushes more into retail, it could be Mixed Reality that changes the physical shopping experience. Of course, Microsoft has done more than most to develop Mixed Reality and make it viable in real-world scenarios.
A recent Microsoft Patent shows a method for placing shopping buttons within a virtual reality render. As you may know, Mixed Reality blends the virtual with the real, so this shopping button would interact with real world environments and objects.
This means a headset wearer could walk around a location and one-click buy items. There would be no need for carts as the consumer could then go to a station to collect the product.
“Disclosed is a system and method for mixed reality that includes a holographic button (eg, a 3D object) that can be downloaded from a provider's website. The holographic button allows a user in the mixed reality world to order the article by interacting with the holographic button. The user in the mixed reality world can place the holographic button near a relevant real object. Whenever the user interacts with the real object through its mixed reality (ie virtual interaction with the real object), the holographic button may appear so that the user can order the element associated with the holographic button.”
Useful or Not?
At the moment, this seems to be a “what if?” patent. Certainly, there are some obvious hurdles to consider. Do consumers really want to be walking around a store with a headset on? And logically the store itself would have to provide the hardware.
For the next time you're in Walmart, this may not seem too efficient and certainly will need ironing out. However, at a hardware store or a construction goods yard, mixed reality one-click shopping could be useful. Customers buy construction materials in bulk, so simply selecting as you move around a yard could make the process more efficient.