Hail Augmented (and cheap) Reality

Are you a trendy sneakers/fashionista clutches/Star Wars fanatic? This week’s [retail bytes] explores the apps, platforms and new tech that can help you make the most of your passions (without splurging on them!).

AR just got cheap (ish): Shopping for a new sofa but can’t quite imagine what it would look like in your living room? A new AR camera is here to help. ZED Mini from Stereolabs can be attached to any old VR headset that you have lying around the house and will give you a decent dose of Augmented Reality without the need to re-mortgage. It’s a real beauty with a wider field of view (110 degrees) and useful ability to map a 3D space in real time. It’s reasonably affordable (below £300), which means it can be easily used as a demo kit in travel shops, car sales showrooms and homeware stores: basically any category where visualisation can help us humans where our limited imagination fails.

The great Facebook face-off: Facebook was well set to win in the Augmented Reality market but Apple is giving them a run for Mark’s money. The social platform is certainly the world’s most powerful app, but it’s still just an app on Apple’s operating system – and that is the advantage Apple is pressing home, launching ARkit to support a setup that avoids having to work with Facebook all together. It allows the developments of AR products where the customer only needs to use phone as the device – no need for dorky glasses or headsets. You can see the demos of visualising a travel route, planning interior design or overlaying BB-8 from Star Wars (always a crowd pleaser). Let the AR wars begin.

Fair Frenzy: How badly do you want to cop those sneakers? Yeezy’s drops are so ridiculously limited in stock that a disorderly queue has formed online and teens are putting in dozens of orders just for the chance to luck into a pair. Frenzy, an aptly named app from e-com platform Shopify, lets sneaker retailers like Offthehook.ca from Montreal take pre-orders for one pair and then randomise the allocation so it’s fair to all the Yeezy-obsessed teens who want to get a chance to buy. The Frenzy app also has geolocation based on dropzones (a 100km radius around the store), so the fans will only compete for the rare pairs with others within the zone. Well done Shopify – nice and fair.

Handbags handover: It’s designer handbags, not sneakers, that are our loves, but all too often our desire is bigger than our wallet can cope with. ShareMyStyle.com is our saviour, an emerging community of bag lovers who can rent a sexy clutch or a Lulu Guinness piece for that one crazy night of bag love for less than £35. All that’s needed is PayPal and an upload of your ID docs to HooYu.com, who supply online, real-time personal verification. HooYu emerged from a rather murky PayDay financial tech underbelly of e-commerce, but are now making themselves useful in our honest peer-to-peer luxury hire marketplaces, giving peace of mind to buyers and sellers alike. This handy and sustainable way of fulfilling your passion for clutch fashion rental is much loved by young London fashionistas. Sharing is caring, and who wants to own stuff anyway?

Robots taking our jobs? Bring it on! A hot endless summer is upon us (we hope!), and with it the never-ending garden chores. Joe Jones, the inventor of Roomba, a cute self-motivated vacuum cleaning robot, is offering a chance to get rid of your gardening nightmares while saving your back from excessive strain. His latest invention, a suitably green weeding robot called Tertill, can hoe up the garden all by itself, as long as you put a little protection around the seedlings – as it differentiates weeds from plants by height, and not by visual recognition (yet). It’s powered by solar and it enjoys a bit of company – two Tertills can work together if your garden is above average size. Just take our money already!

Summer shows: If you want to indulge your secret longing for psychedelic fashion you still can get tickets to the Royal Academy’s Electric Forest evening party, which will show off digital graffiti, glitch art and neon UV live drawings. Dress code: forest creature and psychedelia. What’s not to like?