by Mariella Moon
You don’t need to hop in a time-traveling DeLorean to see how the wonders of technology will continue to reshape many aspects of our lives, such as the way we shop. They might not be widely used just yet, but several emerging technologies that are bound to change your buying habits already exist. From virtual dressing rooms to high-tech checkout counters and shopping carts, get to know what’s in store for your future weekend and holiday shopping sprees.
Services currently gaining traction
Social media has become an enormous part of our lives in recent years, so it’s not surprising that both brick-and-mortar and online stores have started giving their businesses a social spin. Urgently looking for a gift to buy? Check out popular online pinboard Pinterest to browse items, filtered according to price.
Many traditional retail stores have Facebook Pages and Twitter accounts where they announce their newest and hottest goods, as well as the deals and discounts they’re offering. Social community The Fancy offers discounts and coupons to users based on the nature of the images they “Fancy,” which is the site’s equivalent to Facebook’s Like and Pinterest’s Pin It. Fab.com, another social shopping site, has a Live Feed similar to Facebook’s news feed that shows you what other members buy and like.
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Other social shopping services include Karma, which helps you buy gifts for your Facebook friends; Sneakpeeq, which posts every item you “peeq” at on Facebook; and Kaboodle, a social bookmarking service for online shops.
Apps like Shopkick (download Shopkick for your iPhone or Android) give you incentives for simply walking into stores. If you use popular location-based social networking app Foursquare, chances are you can find several local establishments that offer discounts when you check in. A web portal called Poorsquare makes it easier for you by collating all the generous deals for 85 U.S. cities in one place.
Companies like Groupon, LivingSocial, and even AT&T and Google offer local deals that encourage you to support businesses in your area. Clearly, your location will play a bigger and bigger part of your shopping experience.
Technologies to look forward to
Try it on, virtually
We bet trying on fab clothes in cramped, cubicle-like fitting rooms isn’t your idea of a good time. But unless you’re a VIP in a posh, high-fashion boutique, you don’t have much of a choice. That’s why we’re sure you’re going to love the virtual dressing rooms and augmented reality apps that put your passion for fashion at your fingertips.
Want to shop online for a new pair of shades or eyeglasses? You don’t need to guess which pair looks best on you — use the eBay Fashion iPhone app (download eBay Fashion for iPhone) to superimpose a pair of eyewear you’re checking out on a picture of your face.
But what if you want to buy something bigger than a pair of glasses?
Thanks to Microsoft Kinect’s motion tracking camera, systems like FaceCake Swivel and KinectShop can overlay clothes and accessories on your onscreen counterpart. While KinectShop is only a prototype, FaceCake Swivel has been around since 2011. With FaceCake, you can even choose the background of your virtual fitting room (try on a wedding dress against a chapel or a garden backdrop!) to enhance your shopping experience.
Get a perfect, custom fit
Tired of jeans that don’t quite follow your curves or shirts that fit your torso but are too tight around the arms? Everyone’s body is shaped differently, and to get a perfect fit, you sometimes have to get your clothes altered. But by using 3D scanning technology, all the clothes you buy will fit the contours of your body to a T.
Companies like Bodymetrics and Fitted Fashion scan your body in high-tech booths to get the most accurate measurements, so they can customize clothes just for you. Right now, both companies focus on making the perfect pair of jeans, but they plan to expand their offerings.
High-tech shopping carts and checkout counters
Shopping carts given high-tech makeovers could, in time, be a common sight in malls and supermarkets. Natural and organic food retailer Whole Foods is currently testing prototypes of Microsoft Kinect-enabled carts that can follow you along the aisles, steered merely by your movement and the sound of your voice. In China, a supermarket chain introduced tablet-equipped carts that guide shoppers around the stores’ mazes of aisles.
Back here in the United States, several supermarkets in the northeast use a device called Scan It that gives buyers the freedom to scan purchases on their own while they shop. While it’s great not having to line up at a checkout counter, we wouldn’t mind it if the store used something as advanced as Toshiba’s new Object Recognition Scanner. The machine identifies a product as soon as it’s placed in front of a camera just by its shape and color, even if it has no bar code or QR code.
Welcome to the future
We have a long wait ahead of us before some of these technologies become so intimately intertwined with our daily lives that we can’t imagine life before them. Change may be a scary thing, but in this case, it will not only make everyday tasks more convenient but also tailors your every purchase to your wants and needs.
Now, if we could just find some way for our tech to pay for everything we want to buy…
More from Tecca:
- 57 high-tech wearables for the fashion-conscious geek
- New shopping app lets you crowdsource opinions about how that dress fits
- Just Show Me: 3 great shopping apps for your Android phone
Tecca.com is a personal technology site dedicated to helping you get the most out of the devices, services, and digital media in your life. We’re here to reduce the stress and increase the fun by making tech more accessible, more useful, and easier to understand.