Hood Container is Turning Heads with Virtual Reality
As technology has been reshaping our online retail experience, it makes sense to take an earnest look at how manufacturers utilize these new advances in the retail display industry as well. It wasn’t long ago that the digital team at Hood Container did just that, and launched the revolutionary Hood Platform — The platform designed to make workflow and collaboration between clients and internal associates easier than ever.
It was this initiative that led the digital team at Hood Container to envision how to improve content management and workflow even though there was no clear roadmap for the display industry. Of course, nobody could have imagined back in 2016, how the world would change with the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, even back then, the digital team wanted to pursue access to work from any computer platform, home or office and insisted on doing away with outdated workflow.
Once the platform was launched, it opened new doors to what was possible. Customers liked the new accessibility it opened up and gave the team great feedback on how to grow. Because a ‘platform’ is a structure that can be built upon, there were many novel ideas on how to make the design process more functional and collaborative. One technical field that has been quickly making advancements, is the realm of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality.
VR and AR had once been exclusively relegated to video gaming with its unwieldy hardware and expensive software. In the last few years however, it has become much more affordable and accessible. Large tech companies like Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon have all recently launched extensive hardware or software projects (often both), giving VR and AR a serious future outside of gaming.
The design engineers at Hood Container, regularly work with CAD files for their designs. The digital team saw the opportunity with modern software that could open the door to allowing all of these designs an extra dimension in the design process. Could this be a new technological milestone in the display design industry?
Historically in the display industry, pen and ink drawings were used to make concepts, along with hand-cut prototypes. Then 3D software allowed the ability to virtually ‘photograph’ designs as renderings. What if designers, customers, and sales could all get ‘hands on’ with concepts before they’re manufactured — Could such a platform be implemented? If so, the team knew that this technology would save time, money and waste by improving communication and reducing the time it takes to share concepts.
So the developers on the digital team got to work, and the new Hood Platform is currently testing this vision, with the Hood VR Planogram Tool and Hood Omni Visualizer Augmented Reality tool. Together these additions to the platform are light years ahead of anything ever before seen in the marketplace.
With the Hood VR Planogram tool, customers have the ability to virtually stand in front of their life-sized display design — Accurately modeled down to the precise millimeter in 3D from designer CAD files. The customer can view and ‘walk around’ the display, using hand motions to reach out and touch the display, and with a swipe, change out any number of graphic artwork treatments. This is a traditional way to reuse the same display structure and change the artwork to fit a new program or seasonal campaign. The ability to upload artwork and see it applied to a display will help avoid errors as well as help visualize all the opportunities available.
The planogram portion of the tool begins with a turn of the wrist. This gives access to the customer database of 3D product models. Product can be virtually ‘grabbed’ off of this menu and placed on the display in any combination. To ensure accuracy, the product is unable to defy physics or collide with the display structure, thereby ensuring that the maximum product count cannot be exceeded. As a helpful reminder, the planogram tool implements an artificial assistant who can speak to the user, letting them know if counts are exceeded. The user can also speak to the assistant in plain English and ask for more or less product to be loaded to the display.
In addition to this, product SKUs and inventory can be changed with a swipe of a finger as well, even after it’s been placed on the display. The Hood VR Planogram Tool has been designed to be easily picked up without training. Within minutes a user feels comfortable walking around the display, swapping product and artwork, taking pictures of their own renderings and starting over, as many times as needed. By putting this process in the hands of the customer (or sales team, or other designers), rendering tasks are streamlined and new combinations and opportunities can be visualized, all much quicker than by passing these tasks to multiple parties to achieve.
Another new tool, the Hood Omni Visualizer is the latest Augmented Reality tool added to the Platforms suite of capabilities. Typically users of the Hood Platform are able to view 3D models in their browser. These are visual models that can be rotated and viewed at all angles by moving the mouse around on the picture. With the Hood Omni Visualizer, the user can do much more.
Augmented Reality, requires the use of a mobile device such as a smart phone or tablet. The effect of AR, is where the device superimposes the image within the camera of the device, thereby creating an illusion of a real display in the world viewed by the camera phone. Many people have seen this technology before with marketing promotional applications. The barrier to entry with these applications are that they require the user to ‘join’ or sign up for an app, register, make an account, and maintain and update the app on their device. Most people have ‘app fatigue’ and simply don’t want to install and update another app.
With the Hood Omni Visualizer, the app is already installed in the cloud and the user simply presses the ‘View AR’ button within the platform — That’s it, nothing to install or sign up for. Special added features are a ‘screen capture’ button to take virtual photos of the display in the retail environment or hold down the photo button to take a walkaround video of the display. These 3D representations of the designs on the Platform are based on actual CAD files from the designers and uploaded to the cloud. On the Hood side, no extra programming is needed to deliver the experience, and if the customer asks for a change, it is simply uploaded and instantly viewable on the Visualizer, no hassle.
As you can imagine, everyone who’s had a chance to view these new VR and AR features in the Hood Platform are excited about the future in retail display design. Truly, this is something that harnesses the uncertain future and brings all parties together in an interactive way, no matter where they are. The Hood Container digital team continues to look forward to the opportunities that continue to expand, even in todays challenging retail environment.