Allow me to make a prediction..
5-10 years from now, you’re in your lounge room and you put on your Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality headset.
You walk in (login) to the local Target (still in the virtual world).
You walk through the front door and are greeted immediately by an invisible voice:
“Welcome <First Name>, let me know if you have any questions”. The first mannequin you see at the front of the store, is wearing an amazing outfit that suits you perfectly.
You reach out to touch it, and all of a sudden, you are wearing it and looking at yourself in a floor-to-ceiling mirror that appeared out of nowhere. You look great!
Then pops up some accessories that pair really well with the style, a belt, some shoes, and a hat, all bouncing on the shelf with a speech-bubble above them saying “Why not buy me too? I’m a perfect match!”.
When you logged in, your online world was scanned for any little piece of information that might be useful to the ‘machines’ to calculate what they can sell you.
The pages you like and the groups you’re in on Facebook.
Your purchase history from Amazon or eBay.
The online shopping newsletters you’re subscribed to.
The stores you browsed when you were connected to the ‘free’ wifi in the shopping center (yes they track your movements).
You message your friend to try the same thing, to walk in to Target and see the outfit you’re thinking about buying.
They walk in to Target, except, the first thing they see, is the new Battlefield game on XBox. With controllers, headsets and gaming chairs all emerging from the background. They are handed a controller so they can play the ‘demo’ of the game before purchasing, where they have been taught some cool moves by the invisible voice in their head. How can they say no?
Their online habits have been completely different to yours:
They have been watching game-play videos on YouTube.
Asking questions to their Google Home / Alexa.
Joining Battlefield forums in Reddit and Slack.
Stocked up their online wallet in the Microsoft Store
Your Credit Card, frequent shopper points, and shipping details are already set to automatic on your account and all you have to do is reach out and touch the over-sized “Buy Now!” button in the sky. Instantly, the products are being picked, and packed by robots, and then loaded into a driver-less (Tesla) Semi-truck for delivery within 48 hours.
There has been no need for human intervention at any stage of this process. You have been able to find exactly what you want straight away, try before you buy, find accessories that match your purchase, pay automatically, no commute, no parking, no crowds, no searching through the shop for ages.
I know this sounds like an episode of Black Mirror, but it’s a very real concept.
UPDATE – 15 June 2023: Google introduces new AI virtual try-on feature