I recently attended an event in Boston (MITX) that was co-sponsored by MIT and Google, whose purpose was to explore the future of e-commerce. It was just what the doctor ordered, got the creative juices flowing. Specifically, Wayfair is doing some amazing work bringing augmented reality to e-commerce and Ministry of Supply is using 3D printing for distributed manufacturing.
Wayfair’s app requires a depth sensor, which is currently only available on a Lenovo tablet (but might well be more common in the *future*). It enables customers to choose furniture from the catalog and place them in their own homes, walk around, view from different perspectives. It makes the products tangible, and helps spark the imagination by merging the real and the virtual.
There was, of course, an homage to Pokemon and loud voice promoting that this is the time for AR, that we are entering the Matrix. It’s absolutely a near-term possibility that we will produce devices that solve the motion sickness issue, bridge the uncanny valley and indeed create an immersive experience that is indistinguishable from the real. I love that companies like Wayfair, Apple and Google are playing here to win.
Tackling distance from the other end, Ministry of Supply is now shipping a 3D-knitted jacket, entirely without seams, and are promoting it as a stronger, more ecologically friendly product than the traditional men’s blazer.
The concept that manufacturing in an additive fashion (rather than cutting the fat) produces less waste. Beyond this, though, imagine a world in which you buy the design and print at home. Fashion becomes a DRM problem and we eliminate the cost of shipping from point A to point B.
E-commerce is, on occasion, put in a room with big box logistics, but we believe that it is a platform for innovation. It has the power to transform retail into a technology play and change the world to boot. And that’s what we do.