After applying augmented reality as a solution for the sale and marketing of sneakers, Nike is taking the next step in its adoption of AR to improve the customer experience.

On Thursday, Nike unveiled its new Nike Fit tool, which the company is preparing to add to its existing mobile apps for iOS and Android, as well as its retail stores.

Nike Fit uses computer vision and machine learning to scan a customer’s foot and measure its full shape. The app uses the smartphone’s rear-facing camera to find 13 data points on the subject’s foot and calculate an accurate fitting based on the customer’s actual dimensions. The retail version of Nike Fit adds a mat to the experience for an even better fit and calls for the in-store sales associate to do the scanning.

With the foot size determined, the app automatically filters shoe sizes as customers browse Nike’s catalog, applying a different shoe size for certain categories based on usage. For instance, running shoes call for a tighter fit than a casual sneaker.

According to CNBC, Nike Fit won’t arrive in the app and stores until July in North America and August in Europe.

The company stated in a blog post:

“Nike Fit is a transformative solution and an industry first — using a digital technology to solve for massive customer friction.

In the short term, Nike Fit will improve the way Nike designs, manufactures and sells shoes — product better tailored to match consumer needs. A more accurate fit can contribute to everything from less shipping and fewer returns to better performance. The ultimate goal is to, eventually, totally personalize product. No number, no gender, just your name and a custom-made pair of shoes.”

As with just about every other consumer-facing industry, Nike and other sneaker makers, like Adidas and New Balance, have used augmented reality for marketing purposes.

The footwear industry has also adopted augmented reality for the customer experience, giving consumers 3D previews of products in their physical space and letting them see how shoes look on their feet. Puma has gone as far as to turn the products themselves into targets for visual effects. The footwear brand placed codes on the surface of the shoes and with a camera app, users will be able to enjoy a variety of AR games and filter effects.

And Nike’s recent AR move isn’t a new one. The company has been at the forefront of the AR revolution, publishing an AR app for selling limited-edition sneakers and partnering with Snapchat for in-store and special event marketing. The company even experimented with projection-based AR for in-store sneaker customization.

In 2017, The company began experimenting with the augmented reality technology in June during the release of the SB Dunk High Pro “Momofuku,” a model designed in collaboration with famous chef David Chang. Nike made pairs available through its SNKRS app for iOS and the only way sneakerheads could buy them was using a new AR feature.

To unlock these in the application, shoppers then had to go to the product page, tap on a 3D model of the sneaker and then point your smartphone’s camera at a menu of Chang’s Fuku restaurant in New York City. The tech wasn’t limited to a physical menu, so consumers could also gain access by pointing your device at a web version of it or special SNKRS posters that Nike put up across NYC. AR is all about mixing digital objects with the real world, and this was a great way to show how that would sell product.

Most importantly, AR became the perfect tool for Nike to fight off bots, since the experience required a physical interaction with buyers. And that seemed to pay off. Nike President of Direct to Consumer Business Heidi O’Neill then said at Recode’s Code Commerce conference 2017 that bringing the tech to SNKRS “has come very close to eliminating bots, and taking the sneaker hunt [to] as close to a fair game [as] it is anywhere in the industry.” In fact, the experiment has turned out so well that Nike produced more AR services to improve customer experience.

The company’s latest innovation, though, hits a pain point that every shopper, particularly those who have tried to buy shoes online without trying them on first, has encountered. It’s this kind of forward thinking approach that demonstrates the innovative and widely useful potential of augmented reality.

Now that Nike is rolling this feature out widely, expect it to be copied by competitors, thus making it the sneaker industry standard in short order. Today is yet another major step toward AR going mainstream in ways many would least expect, but will absolutely welcome.


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