"(Microsoft Kinect) may just be the most significant game-changer for retail this decade, one that promises a new channel just as viable as the Web browser," wrote Chris Andrasick, CEO and co-founder of Tacit Knowledge, a digital commerce consultancy, in a guest blog post for Forbes (June 6).
Here are Andrasick's reasons why Kinect is a retail game changer:
- Online shopping experiences that feature more images and videos of a product result in more sales -- TV is a better platform for these media than phones, laptops or PCs.
- "People will shop in their living room if the experience is intuitive and visually compelling."
- The mouse revolutionized PCs. Touchscreens did the same for phones and tablets. "By contrast, the TV interface has been left wanting for a similar innovative breakthrough."
- Kinect's 3D sensitivity "affords the opportunity for more compelling experiences such as the already demonstrated capability to try on apparel virtually."
- "The digital channels available to retailers continue to evolve, and thanks to the technology introduced in Kinect, television is the next step in this evolution."
In it, Walker identifies a number of recent "Kinect-centric experiements aimed squarely at the marketplace": Bloomingdale's interactive clothing sizing, Whole Foods' "smart" shopping cart's real-time product scanning, and better parallel parking technology for car manufacturers.
"An object that spawns its own commercial ecosystem is a thing to take seriously," Walker writes. "Patent-watching sites report that in recent months, Sony, Apple and Google have all registered plans for gesture-control technologies like the Kinect."
In February, Microsoft released a new version of Kinect designed to work with a Windows PC, along with a software kit to allow developers to create commercial Kinect applications (see Kinect in the Workplace).
"By March, Microsoft announced team-ups with 350 commercial partners on applications for hospitals, assembly lines, work-force training and so on, including many big corporate names, like American Express and Toyota," Walker writes.
The potential for gesture-based controls is undeniably huge. While their applications for retail in particular are yet to be determined, expect more in the way of home shopping and in-store installations in the coming months.