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Redbubble adds augmented reality to mobile app

Global online art marketplace, Redbubble, has this week released a new feature in its mobile app, which lets users see products in their own home before buying.

The feature is powered by Apple’s augmented reality (AR) toolkit, which Ikea has also harnessed for its recently-released augmented reality app.

Customers can now place virtual pillows on couches and chairs, view fabric texture up close, see how items interact with lighting and compare colours and size to surrounding objects.

The feature is only available to those who have downloaded Redbubble’s app on an Apple mobile device running iOS 11.

Redbubble plans to add AR support for three more objects before Christmas and will continue to add support for other categories where it makes sense.

The marketplace currently offers 65 everyday objects, which customers can print over 11 million different designs onto. The range extends across apparel, stationery, homewares, bags, wall art and other categories.

“At the moment, we are focused on home décor. We know it’s a product range that people want to see in their home [before buying]. It provides value,” Alex Lunnon, Redbubble’s product manager for mobile, told Internet Retailing.

“We may take [AR] to every category, but it won’t be overnight. We’re really trying to understand the problem space around specific categories first,” he said.

For instance, customers could create and rearrange a gallery wall of various artworks using AR, or see how several different sticker designs look together on a laptop case.

Redbubble wants to be Pinterest for e-commerce

It took just a few weeks for Redbubble’s mobile development team to build the tool, according to Lunnon.

“The framework itself is provided by Apple, so they take care of the complexity of understanding flat surfaces and the actual scale, so we can place a pillow in a way that reflects its actual size in real life,” he said.

Redbubble needed to create a 3D model of the pillow and overlays that show texture, light and shadows and other details to make the object appear as it does in real life.

The company has a team of 60 developers who are primarily based in Melbourne. Eight people are dedicated specifically to the company’s mobile app, which launched globally in May of this year.

The app has had almost one million downloads so far.

Lunnon said AR supports the app’s purpose to be more of a browsing and discovery tool, rather than a transactional one.

“What we’re trying to create with the Redbubble app is an experience similar to Pinterest for self-express and exploration,” he said.

Redbubble listed on the ASX in May 2016. It has offices in the US and Germany, and last year launched German, French and Spanish language versions of its website.

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