Microsoft’s unveiling of the new Xbox One console last week got me thinking about the launch of Kinect, its motion-sensing camera device. When Kinect debuted in 2010, online discussion exploded around how the device held so many potential uses beyond gaming. Hackers quickly broke down the hardware and began posting videos of new prototype uses.
But over two years later, we’re still not seeing many branded applications of the technology. Sure, Nike has a line of well-received Kinect personal trainer games. Not a big stretch for a motion-sensing camera.
Despite the slow start, Kinect has the potential to radically change in-home shopping. Here are just a few ways I expect brands to use Kinect (and future technologies like it) to reach consumers at home.
Digitally “try-on” personalized product recommendations
In a previous post, I imagined a dressing room-only apparel store with a magic mirror that, using Kinect-like sensors, knows a shopper’s exact measurements, and interacts with her via a Siri-like associate. Kinect brings that imaginary showroom into a shopper’s living room.
Imagine a makeup brand app reads the shopper’s skin tone, bone structure, eye color, hair color, and complexion through Kinect. It pulls recommended shades and digitally superimposes them on the shopper’s face. Vogue, Clinique, and Johnson & Johnson are already experimenting with facial recognition software online via traditional webcams.
An apparel app could similarly reveal clothing that fits a shopper’s coloring and body type. Knowing her past purchases and reviews, the app suggests additional items that pair well with pieces she likes. The shopper brings out a brightly printed skirt she bought from a different retailer, and asks the app to suggest tops to pair it with. It reads the coloring and shape, and surfaces perfect matches – which it digitally superimposes on her body, letting her “try on” the items.
Shop TV and games like a store
I previously wrote about how shoppable product placement will replace interruptive TV ads. Song identifying app Shazam recently announced a new feature following this trend. During a partnering TV program, Shazam listens to the scene and identifies the clothing characters are wearing, taking users to the product page – making the entire program shoppable. Kinect could bypass the need for a second screen altogether.
While watching Mad Men, a viewer might say, “Kinect, I want to try on Joan’s yellow dress when this episode is over.” After the program, the show’s partnering shopping app brings up the dress, letting the shopper digitally try it on (along with any other garment on the program) as previously described. The app may sell placement not just to the actual dress’s brand/retailer, but to other retailers with similar styles as well – just as the pages of Cosmopolitan and Elle show readers where to buy celebrity looks for less.
This shopping wouldn’t be confined to clothing, or to TV. Any movie, video game, or other digital experience becomes ripe for shoppable product placement. Say PING pays for placement of its clubs in the next edition of Tiger Woods PGA Tour. A player tells Kinect he wants to know more about the driver, and the game pulls up a product page on partner Golfsmith’s site, complete with specs, reviews, and online ordering. Kinect can show him the club length to scale on his body, and record a few practice swings, superimposing the club into his hands in playback.
Interact with helpful multimedia experiences
Kinect also gives brands opportunities to add value through multimedia experiences. A haircare brand, for example, could offer tutorials on certain hairstyles. Tracking the user’s movements through Kinect, the tutorial corrects missteps as they happen to help her achieve the perfect ‘do.
Imagine an app for do-it-yourself furniture retailer IKEA. While building the furniture is often a fulfilling part of the brand experience, many IKEA owners can tell you how they reached the end of the instructions and found one remaining board, having no idea where it goes. But using Kinect, the IKEA app walks the builder through the construction process, correcting him if he misses a piece. Such an app could become even more helpful if Kinect added RFID sensors, and IKEA had identifying RFID stickers on each piece.
This artificially-intelligent guidance would allow brands like Clinique and Nordstrom to recreate in a shopper’s home the person-to-person experiences that define their brands. A well-made app could not only guide the shopper’s makeup application or recommend the right clothing as previously described, but go further in connecting the shopper to a real person if needed, via video-conferencing. Customers could talk to a representative on their screen – and reps could serve any customer, anywhere, from a centralized location.
Kinect may not currently be able to do the things described, but it’s not hard to imagine improvements that would allow these ideas. And Xbox will face competition in these services from products like Apple TV (rumored to have Siri) and the upcoming improvements to PlayStation Move. Whatever technology succeeds, it’s safe to say in-home shopping is poised for reinvention.