Why the urgency?
Why am I all up in arms here? What happened? On September 17th Apple's iOS 12 update launched. What about it? Well, some time ago Apple gave a sneak peak of the things to come. One of those things was native support for a new 3D format called USDZ.
Clearly I'm still not making any sense on the importance of this.
Let's roll back here and start at the beginning.
In unison with Pixar (yes, from the movies) Apple defined (or will support, whatever) a new file format for 3D objects called USDZ. just like you have ".JPG" for images, or ".m4v" for movies, you'll now have a ".USDZ" file format for 3D assets. USDZ stands for "Zero-compression, unencrypted zip archive" of the USD (Universal Scene Description) format (pfew).
In and of itself, this isn't a biggie. There are plenty of 3D formats out there. The really important piece of the puzzle here is that Apple will support this format out of the box within iOS 12 which, again, has launched on September 17th.
Starting then, every iPhone from iPhone 6S on up, with iOS 12 installed will be able to "read" and thus "present" an model in the USDZ format in 3D. We know the adoption of a new iOS version is very high. As an example: the adoption rate of iOS 11, after one year, was 85%. So this functionality will become available to a huge userbase.
USDZ and AR-Kit: Walhallah for every company that sells tangible goods.Being able to open up, or share a 3D model within iOS is kind of cool. It starts to become really awesome if you can take that very object and just place it in the real world. That is exactly what Apple's AR-kit allows you to do through "AR Quicklook". If you receive a USDZ file via mail, in your browser or sent through the Message App, you can now open it up and place that item on your desk.
Why not try it out:
Simply update your iPhone to iOS 12 and visit this page by using your phone:
Tap any of the objects and watch them appear in 3D. Then, tap the "AR" button and place the object on your desk. Tadaaaah. Fancy eh?
Not upgraded yet, check out this vid...
Or hey, why not justwalk through it, right?
What's it to me?So what does this mean for companies. It means that you can now show off your products in the real world, from all sides, without any custom application. Any e-commerce site can simply provide a link to the 3d object just like they would show a picture or a video on a product page. It really is that simple. This can be done with any tangible product. Think clothing, think appliances or furniture, think entire machines. Put that forklift in your livingroom and check out the controls or the size. Think even entire homes or appartments (yes, you can walk around in them). No questions asked, no applications needed, just add it to your site.
Is this a FAD?
No. I can not stress this enough. It's not. Because it's an open source format, any other company (say Google?) can start implementing this. We already know Google is moving steadily into the AR realm themselves so they could implement this format as well. Other companies like Adobe already are supporting the format as well.
Oh, and lest not forget, think about the staggering amount of iOS devices out there. this is not some "small percentage" of your customerbase.
OK, so what do I do next?This is where the urgency comes in. You get kicking. If you don't shift into higher gear, your competitors will. So go and check the current status of your product asset creation, storage and distribution. Hopefully you have some sort of PIM. Ideally this contains or is coupled with a DAM system containing your product assets. Ideally, both of these are already acting as source for your e-commerce site or product section on your site. If not, no worries, but you will be spending a huge amount of "manual" labour on keeping your online product offering up-to-date.
Now go and check with your product engineers and developers if they have 3D assets of your products. Chances are, they have (if you produce products yourself) but probably they're more of the CAD type of assets. These are 3D assets used for producing the product, not for "visualizing" them. They're really techie and not very nice to look at. So you'll need to "transform" these into a 3D model of your project that is optimized for visualizing the end product.
So you'll need to refactor these assets. If you do not have 3D assets of your products, not to worry. Already companies are prepping to fill this void as a service, deepdiving into your manufacturing plant and digitizing your products into 3D form.
Hence the pressure to act swiftly. You have work to do.
Implementation into your site actually is the easiest part of all of this. just provide a link to the usdz file just as you would link up to any other assest (image, PDF, whatever) and boom. Done. I'm oversimplifying this a bit. You'll probably want a small additional rule that only renders the link in case the site is visited by an iOS device, but it's a small technical change.
Why should I? What's in it for me?
Quick check: do you sell a tangible good? Cool. Now, you know the importance of having good product imagery, right? It really influences the online purchase behaviour. What's next. Oh right, video. I bet you've read tonnes of articles explaining the advantages of also providing video of your products. Struggeling with that? I understand. It eats resources. But you need to do this to stay ahead of the competition. It's the olympic minimum for online commerce.
Unfortunately, providing an AR experience of your products has become part of that olympic minimum since September 17th. Just like imagery and video helps to sell products, providing a 3D version in AR will do the same.
Luckily, e-commerce solution providers also understand the importance of this. Shopify already has a complete writedown on how to get these AR assets in your store offering. They are not alone. Almost every other e-commerce solution out there has AR plugins at the ready.
But I don't sell through an e-commerce system, or I don't sell products at all.
No e-commerce platform yet? Being able to show off your product online can still be beneficial to convince your customers to get in touch with you, right? Or perhaps it gives them a better understanding of the possibilities of your product. Think about the opportunities this also offers for your sales team. This technology will allow them to visit customers and demonstrate "big" products without any issues by simply providing them with an iPad and access to a site with the assets. USDZ also allows for "animation" so you could have your "forklifts" or "robo-arms" or whatever demonstrated whilst the product is "in motion".
What about a "virtual" trade show installation where you allow for multiple customers to check out your entire product catalog in a booth with a minimal floor size.
It does not have to be about a product. The technology can also be used to demonstrate or educate your customers by showing them 3D animated scenes right where they are.
OK, OK, I'm inspired. Can you help out?
Implementing this new format honestly isn't rocket science. The biggest challenge will be in creating your 3D assets. That said, it will also require a new way of looking at your product asset management and creation flow. We gladly assist in implementing this new technology into your PIM, DAM, e-commerce, website or marketing and branding campaigns.
Curious as to what else you could do with this technology to serve your customers better? Invite us and let's discover the opportunities together in a co-creation session or better yet. Let's prototype and see what works and what doesn't.