The brave, new 3-D world of antiques
You may have read that heavy-metal rocker Ronnie James Dio will be touring again this summer. That’s quite a feat, considering that Dio has been dead for nine years. The tour will pair a hologram of Dio with his former bandmates, who will be playing live behind the apparition. The tour is an already-in-progress project, having played to sold-out European crowds in 2016. The success of Dio’s hologram project has prompted similar tours by holograms of Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, Frank Zappa, and others.
Holograms have become as commonplace in theatrical performances as Virtual Reality (VR) is in video gaming. For those unfamiliar with these technologies, a Hologram is a 3-D image that projects into space and can be viewed on its own; Virtual Reality is an immersive experience in which the user is enveloped in a virtual world; and Augmented Reality (AR) overlays images or information onto a real background.
Augmented Reality (AR) has gained a foothold in the retail world. Ikea, Lowes and Home Depot have launched AR applications that enable their customers to see how various furnishings, fixtures, and flooring will look in a customer’s living room, bathroom, and kitchen. [https://bit.ly/2fFDSIv]
Gap’s Dressing Room app enables customers to “try on” clothing in an Augmented Reality dressing room [https://dailym.ai/2UnEh5o]. Even Shopify is in on the action; this video collaboration with Magnolia demonstrates how AR can be used to “place” a vase in a room to see how it looks: https://youtu.be/85-bJjlvJFA.
Can antique stores’ adoption of AR be far behind? As an industry, we tend to be late-adopters of technological advancements; after all, our future is in our past. But these technologies are gaining ground rapidly. A 2016 report by retail industry analysts Interactions Damon reports that 61% of consumers prefer to shop at stores that offer AR; 71% would shop at a retailer more often if they offered AR; and 40% would pay more for a product if they experience it first using AR [https://bit.ly/2w3zkmw].
Presently “smart” consumer goods (those capable of being accessed via the internet) are being added at a rate of 127 per second. [https://bit.ly/2IxXkHI]
How might antique dealers use holograms and AR to engage customers? Imagine that you receive a Google alert about the availability of an item you want to collect. You open the mail using your phone, and a hologram of the object hovers in the space above your phone. You spin and turn the item, inspecting it from all angles. It seems to be what you want, so you open the attached data file for more information. The file lists the type of finish, density, materials, and a description, as well as the item’s provenance: who has owned it, price history, and so on. The item meets with your approval, so you text the seller with an offer.
Far fetched? Nope.
This technology is currently available and in use. Last fall, Verizon and AT&T began to sell the Red Hydrogen One Holographic smartphone. The Android phone’s holographic display projects 3-D images that can be viewed from all angles without special glasses. Users can interact with the images using special hand gestures. The device also includes a camera capable of capturing 3-D images. [A demonstration of the phone can be seen here: https://youtu.be/nmzEe8j1TSM.]
The technology for creating accompanying data files is almost old-school by comparison: radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips, QR codes, and plain text files.
Red Hydrogen One phones list for $1,295-$1,595 and can be purchased as part of a phone service contract for about $50 per month.
Any antique can be catalogued in 3-D. Will having a holographic inventory available increase sales? Probably.
Should such an effort be attempted for all of one’s inventory? I don’t think so; not yet.
Rare, expensive, or large items might be worth the effort. Holographs could put antique dealers back into the furniture business: Customers would no longer have to run back and forth with measurements and color samples or take a piece home on trial just to bring it back a few days later because it doesn’t fit into a room the way they had hoped.
In another generation or so, all a dealer’s inventory will be holographically available — even if dealers make no conscious effort to catalog the items. We are entering the era of the Internet of Things (IoT) wherein products are routinely endowed with “smart” capabilities and are accessible via the internet.
We know about smart appliances (e.g., refrigerators that will re-order groceries). In 2016, the technology company Chronicled began an open registry project for IoT that will include artworks and collectibles as well as consumer goods. Chronicled bills the project as “a major step forward in the growth and interoperability of the consumer Internet of Things.” [https://prn.to/2PcVuNT]
Samantha Radocchia, Chronicled’s Chief Product Officer, spoke on the company’s collaborative approach: “Developers are invited and encouraged to build their own proprietary applications leveraging the public registry. Importantly, the registry is an open source layer and is not proprietary to Chronicled, Inc. It is a public good designed to outlive the lifespan of any company. Brands, chip companies and developers utilizing the registry cannot be locked in, monetized or forced to cede control over business critical data and customer relationships ... Further, if an artist signs his painting with a digital chip, a patron’s smartphone could soon be used to verify authenticity and provenance, view exclusive content, and securely buy, insure, collateralize, or transfer ownership of the artwork.”
What does this mean for our stores? More change.
Online platforms like eBay and Facebook continue to re-define themselves to stay relevant. Certainly, holographic imagery will become a standard offering of online venues. Bricks-and-mortar stores will take a bit longer to fully embrace the technologies, because they still have a “tactile advantage” over online stores.
As wi-fi grows into universal 5-G coverage and holographic smartphone technology becomes more pervasive, online selling venues will simply close or consolidate.
Remember AOL? Where are they now?
What will happen when all products can be accessed and sold through search engines or closed peer-to-peer networks, without sellers having to pay listing fees?
As Bob Dylan sang in 1964, “The Times, They Are A-Changin’.” He had no idea just how fast that would happen.
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