Forget Augmented and Virtual Reality, Genuine Reality is Making a Comeback

The past 20 years of technological innovation have been defined by attempting to better reality

From holograms, 8K HDR TVs, flexible displays and digital profiling, advances have consisted of a mindset of ‘what exists isn’t good enough’ rather than ‘what we have can be used in a better way’. The former paradigm has led to space race-esque advancement of virtual and augmented reality.

These two innovations are based on the idea that what is seen and experienced in everyday life is not good enough for either the consumer of the modern business enterprise. Either a VR headset is needed to transport you into a new fantasy world that could only be dreamt – or a digitised computer-generated image reality is layered on top of the real world by images to alter what is real. For both, the message to people is the same. Reality must be improved upon as it is currently sub-par.

There are countless examples of companies adopting this mindset. From IKEA using augmented reality to Google, HTC, Oculus and Microsoft creating alternate worlds for people to interact with, the AR/VR movement is an undeniable force right now. However, this overlooks one fundamental resource: actual reality. Many have now deemed it to be outdated, but ‘the past’ is now making a comeback and showing its true value as being a resource of limitless business functionality. This shift has been empowered by the corporate tidal wave that is data analytics.

There is no denying that AR and VR have both quickly become a mainstream technology. They are functional, creative and the stuff of 1960s science fiction films. However, under the hood of almost every industry, data analytics has become one of the most revolutionary business resources of the 21st Century.

The use of data has now reached boiling point and is erupting in the same way that advertising did in the 50s and 60s. The data boom has been driven primarily by web 2.0 and online profiling and activity tracking. Now, technology has developed to allow the amalgamation of (offline) reality and data. This partnership of digital and manual is the natural passageway into helping enterprises realise that there is no need or social requirement to ‘taint’ the purity of the real world. Instead, the resources that are already available need to be utilised in ways that were previously impossible. It is for this reason that the marriage between real-world physical behaviour and data analytics is key to the future of all types of business.

Video analytics is a seldom-used term, however, its impact is game-changing. Picture this familiar scenario: a fashion retailer has a physical store on the high street and an online e-commerce website for the same product ranges. People enter the store to try on the products and browse the items that they are interested in, but the majority of people leave without buying anything at all. Often, when this is the case, those who do not buy are never registered as having existed in the company’s data understanding (apart from perhaps as a contributor to footfall).

The online store, on the other hand, sees more sales due to the convenient nature of the service. All data that is collected from the website automatically from cookies and tracking links are analysed and inputted into the online feedback loop, whether a person bought made a purchase or not. However, this feedback loop does not exist for the physical store. Detailed pre-purchase data simply hasn’t existed until now. This is the way that the industry has always worked and will always work, right…? Perhaps not, anymore…

Technology has now reached the stage where similar kinds of data can be collected from the physical store as already from online activity. Video analytics is the medium which enables this to happen. By having one or a set of analytics-enabled cameras in the store, data is collected from how people interact with the physical space around them. Once collected this is run through an artificial intelligence system that can identify, categorise and rank different behaviours. No annoying feedback forms upon checkout. No emails asking how people’s in-store experience was. Nothing. By utilising smart, analytics-enabled cameras, business intelligence data can be collected and used to inform an important business decision on a regular basis. This leads to a more intelligent model of operation and, quite simply, a more successful business.

One example of this new kind of system being used is for improved customer experience. By employing video analytics technology enterprises are better equipped to understand how customers utilise the physical space in their stores and interact with different stimuli that are presented to them. It is a well-supported consumer behaviour finding fact that customers look right when they walk into a store. That said, it might be true because it was believed and that made manifest by store design… Video analytics is taking this type of insight to a new, deeper level of detail and a solid factual basis. Utilising these technologies it is possible to know how long on average customers are spending in each area of the store, what they are interacting with and which features they overlook. This can inform business decisions on floor layout and improve how the customer feels about the store which is the golden egg of retail: For customers to have a positive emotional reaction to being in a store in a similar way to what Hollister and Apple have been able to achieve

The new-found value of genuine reality cannot be understated. Learning from the practice of tracking online behaviour, a customers’ physical journey through a store can now be translated into functional business intelligence data. It is rare for technology to advance while also being retrospective, but nonetheless, using video analytics to garner new business intelligence insights has achieved just that. Augmented and Virtual Reality have their place in the world, but to overlook genuine reality would be to disregard an unrivalled resource made possible by technology at the forefront of innovation.

About the Author

Richard Morgans is CMO at ONVU Technologies. ONVU Technologies is a privately held group, and through annual investment in R&D, talent acquisition and forming partnerships, its subsidiaries deliver video and data led technology solutions for global customers that enable them to make informed business choices across diverse market sectors