wilkins avenue immersive

Wilkins Avenue is a French-American startup focused on AR immersive experiences in physical retail stores. They recently opened a new flagship experience at the Champs-Elysées Lancome location.

According to their site:

The digital world has been fast-forwarded. We use Augmented Reality (AR) to add a touch of magic to reality and make the impossible, possible. We bring narrative, awe and enchantment to any product or location. ​Our mission is to enchant the real world and create powerful emotional connections between customers and retailers.

I love what they’re doing creatively, but I have to challenge their technical premise: First and foremost, how much of the “magic” could be delivered in real life without the need for cumbersome and socially-isolating AR/VR googles? Based on the creative concepts they show here, probably about 2/3rds of the effects could be achieved via digital displays, digital lighting, projection mapping, and proximal interactive controls. So instead of one person trapped in a headset experiencing the optimal immersive experience, while everyone else is just staring at a normal, boring store environment, a shopping experience could be made magical for all guests, collectively.

The design challenge is layering digital information into physical settings. Layering is the key term, the third dimension is what AR brings to life. But as I speculated 20+ years ago in my thesis, display technologies of varying opacity, luminosity, and differing forms of resolution/pixel style can be combined to create a similar depth structure IRL:

2d3d Diagram

My concept is more true than ever, with digital displays of any dimension, shape, pixel resolution widely available; transparent OLED displays; precision digital projection mapping; and wide spread, cheap availability of camera vision systems for tracking guests, their gaze, their gestures, etc.

There just seems to be a large hole in the design world – who is designing the digital personality and the spatial interface experience of these retail and hospitality spaces?