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VPS and Google AR Are Changing Retail. Here's What You Need to Know

By Derek Walter
Business.com / Technology / Last Modified: September 13, 2017
Credit: Google

Virtual Positioning Service could help your customers better navigate a store, and it's coming soon.

Many of your customers likely use Google Maps to make their way to your store. But it might not be long before they'll be navigating indoors to find the exact item they're after.

This is a deeper vision than just the indoor maps that Google has already created for department stores and larger malls. Google's Visual Positioning Service, based on the company's efforts in augmented reality, holds promise for giving the business owner critical details about all the nooks, corners and specific pieces of merchandise in a store.

The other train that keeps chugging along is that of virtual reality. Both of these capabilities, backed heavily by Google, could have a major impact on your business down the line. While they are certainly going to have a great impact on consumers, businesses will have more tools to market their offerings and directly impact the customer journey.

Visual Positioning Service

Google's efforts in this area are driven by the company's Tango platform, which seeks to power smarter phones with additional, location-aware sensors. Smartphones such as the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro and the Asus ZenFone AR are currently on the market, with Google making the technology available for other handset makers to use. 

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Such phones could then take advantage of the Visual Positioning Service, whose name is inspired by GPS. The company's vision is that devices will understand their surroundings in deeper detail. By being spatially aware, they could inlay products to let you get a view of what your room would look like or take you to a specific item right on the shelf.

In showing off such features at the company's I/O developer conference in May, there weren't additional details about specific launches happening. Google released a developer kit for Tango in 2015, but augmented reality's biggest success so far has been with applications such as Pokemon Go.

Mike Almeraris, a virtual reality and augmented reality gaming and store lead with Google, said that such technologies could one day be an ever-present, smart companion. How the hardware looks, however, could eventually move beyond the phone.

"I'd imagine walking down the street and reviews could be dropping right in your line of sight that tell you about the coffee shop of the hotel you're thinking of staying at," said Almeraris. "The form factor could be a head-mounted display … [or] anything. Right now, it's the phone.  That's why for Google, the phone is the base of distribution."

Getting something like VPS into the mainstream will be the challenge, and it will be important to get buy in from businesses to see the potential upside. It could mean valuable data about the decisions customers make or traffic patterns to a business.

Virtual reality

Google has invested heavily in virtual reality. The company's DayDream platform continues to expand, with more announcements at this year's I/O development conference. HTC and Lenovo are building stand-alone headsets that don't require a smartphone. And Google still sells the DayDream View, which works with the company's Pixel and other smartphones to give you a virtual reality experience.

But what could it mean for your business? Virtual reality is still more of a technology that's employed by tech enthusiasts, and there's uncertainty how mainstream it will go. But businesses should still pay attention to it.

For example, it may dramatically change the "test drive" experience. Lowe's, for example, has been experimenting with letting customers view how their new kitchen may look before taking it home. Travel companies could build applications that show off the niceties of a resort or upcoming destination.

Google's Glass campaign didn't take off as most people are still loathe to wear a computer on their face. However, there's significantly more momentum with virtual reality, with many different companies vying to enter the space. It's a technology to watch as one day it would significantly impact the buying experience.

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