How Mixed Reality Can Conquer Buyer’s Remorse

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By Alice Bonasio / Published by Dwell
Welcome to the future of furniture shopping.

When it comes to design, consumers have an "imagination gap" that costs retailers billions. While we might fall in love with an image of a chair online, we can have a hard time picturing how it will look in our homes.

To stop customers from returning goods or giving up on purchases, many retailers are exploring cutting-edge mixed-reality (MR) technology to help shoppers preview design options before they buy. Using holographic headsets like Microsoft HoloLens, it’s possible to overlay renderings of anything—say, a sofa—on top of real backgrounds, effectively mixing virtual and real worlds. "When people are renovating, being able to overlay items within the current state of their home is the most effective way to help them visualize," says Tal Ball, CTO at home-improvement e-tailer BuildDirect, which has a HoloLens prototype program.

Lowe’s has already introduced HoloLens demo stations at some of its stores. Customers can browse saved items from their Pinterest boards, see similar products from Lowe’s, and then interact with those objects as 3-D holograms using a headset. Amazon, too, seems to be considering MR furniture shopping at its brick-and-mortar locations—yet another area where digital and physical are bleeding together.