In the “new normal” of COVID-19, augmented reality will become a powerful sales tool. Shoppers will be eager to try on jewelry, clothes, and makeup without physically touching them. But are the existing AR jewelry apps up to the challenge?
Would you buy earrings or a necklace without trying them on first? Before you shell out $100 for a pair of earrings, you’ll want to be certain they go well with the shape of your face. Indeed, statistical data shows that only about 10% of jewelry sales happen online.
But with all the anti-COVID-19 measures in place, trying on jewelry has become a problem. From the US to Italy, retailers now have to disinfect everything that their customers try on. And if there’s a risk of infection lingering on a dress, it’s much higher with jewelry – after all, you wear necklaces and earrings right next to your face.
Disinfecting every ring and bracelet over and over again isn’t a good idea, though. Aggressively sanitizing products isn’t good for them. So what is a jewelry retailer to do?
Answer: use augmented reality. How can we try on jewelry in AR?
Let’s look under the hood
Most AR jewelry apps all work the same way on the customer end:
1) You pick an item from a catalog and click on “Try”.
2) Your smartphone’s camera launches and the app scans your face or hand.
3) A 3D model of the item is superimposed onto your ears, neck, etc.
4) The app tracks your movements to adjust the position of the jewelry as you take selfies.
What goes on behind the scenes is a bit different for various types of jewelry, though. The technology of face tracking is now well developed because it’s used by all those AR filters and masks on Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook. So making a jewelry try-on app for earrings and necklaces isn’t a problem.
With rings and bracelets, things get trickier. Tracking a hand is difficult from tracking a face because the app needs to consider the dynamics of all the bones and joints. A machine-learning algorithm trained to “see” faces can’t process hands: You have to build an entirely new algorithm. There are many teams working on this, such as uSens and ClayAIR.
Now let’s take a look at a few available AR jewelry apps.
1) A smart mirror for necklaces and earrings from Ammazza
A smart mirror virtually “dresses” you in any clothes you pick at a store, superimposing a 3D model of the garment over your body. You don’t even have to go to a dressing room.
Can this be done for jewelry? Sure. For instance, the Indian app AMMAZZA offers exactly that:
A jewelry store owner can upload a certain number of images that are then processed to become AR 3D models.
The smart mirror solution works well for India, where most jewelry sales happen in brick-and-mortar stores. But in the West, the true potential of AR lies in e-commerce.
2) Choosing rings online with TryOn
Tryon.guru has an app called Shop4Rings centered on wedding and engagement bands. The app is quite old – it was first released in 2016. It’s offered as a white-label solution, meaning that a store owner can add their own logo, products, colors, etc. and use the app as their own. This makes sense – not every jewelry store can develop its own AR app, can it?
In the app, you can stack several rings on the same finger and even create your own 3D designs. The next step is to add wrist recognition so that users can try on bracelets, too.
In addition to jewelry sold on websites, you can also use AR with printed catalogs. For example, the app TryOn Jewelry also allows merchants to embed AR anchor points in printed catalogs. Customers can then scan an image of a ring on a page and see the ring on their finger:
3) Earrings in AR with CaratLane
This major Indian retailer sells all sorts of jewelry, but its augmented reality app focuses on earrings. There are over 3000 designs you can try, and you can easily share your selfies:
An honest opinion of AR jewelry apps
Here at ARzilla, we go after quality in everything. We believe that augmented reality should strive for ever-more realistic 3D models that “live” and move in your environment, not cartoonish 2D images inserted into selfies.
In this sense, the current jewelry apps really fall short, especially if you compare them to what Google has achieved with its AR animals, for example. The apps we’ve looked at suffer from several issues:
1) Cartoonish, unrealistic models – think PC game graphics from the early 2000s.
2) Inaccurate positioning – when you move, the jewelry is often left hanging in the air. Necklaces in particular don’t seem to cling to your skin.
3) Limited selection of models. The more AR models a vendor includes in their catalog, the more expensive the app license. The average range is 200–500, but a big jewelry store needs thousands.
4) Lack of face tracking: In some apps, jewelry items don’t move as your face moves. Some apps only work with photos.
5) App-based: Unless you are handed a smart mirror at a store, you’ll need to install a heavy app. This is a major obstacle to customer acquisition. We’ve said this many times before, and we’ll say it again: Augmented reality in retail should abandon the app-based approach and switch to WebAR so that customers can try things on in their browser. It already works well for interior design, for instance:
Granted, Web AR is not easy to implement for jewelry, but ARzilla is already working on it.
To sum things up, 3D graphics and body tracking need to improve dramatically to provide an experience similar to trying jewelry on at a store. Jewelry AR apps still have a very long way to go to reach the level of face recognition used in Snapchat filters, for example:
In the post-coronavirus world, retailers offering the best AR features will have a huge competitive advantage. The current state of affairs in AR for jewelry is disappointing, but we hope to see much more realistic models and WebAR tools very soon. We’ll be watching this space, so make sure to check back soon – and of course, follow ARzilla on Instagram!