Augmented-Reality Platform Lets Consumers Customize Products
Interactive 3D and augmented reality online are making it easier for car manufacturers, fashion brands, and other businesses to design and produce their products. The platform developed by startup Emersya of Montpellier, France, pioneered the approach for product development, allowing teams to collaborate in 3D on design from ideation to market.
Companies purchase a subscription to access Emersya’s platform. From there, company designers upload a 3D model of their product and then start building their collections, selecting colors, materials, and graphics before determining which to sell.
Emersya can create a configurable 3D model of an item that can be displayed on the manufacturer’s website so that customers can view the product while deciding whether to purchase it. The virtual product can be rotated 360 degrees, and in some cases can be customized by the customer. When customers are purchasing a car, for example, they can choose the vehicle’s exterior and interior colors as well as add-ons such as a sunroof.
Emersya’s interactive viewers are embedded on the websites of more than 1,000 retailers.
For its innovation, Emersya was named the winner of the 2022 3D Retail Coalition Digital Transformation Grand Challenge. The award, from the IEEE Standards Association, recognizes a solution that transforms the way companies create, make, and sell new products by harnessing the power of scaling and automation of 3D digital product creation.
“We’re happy to get this prize because it highlights what we’ve worked on for years and shows that we are offering what the industry needs right now,” says cofounder Aurélien Vaysset, the startup’s CEO. “No other platform is doing what we do. Our customers can create whatever they dream of on our platform, rather than being confined to select features, and in only a few minutes.”
Speeding up product development
Design teams don’t have to have a technical background to use Emersya’s platform, Vaysset says, because it is built to be simple and intuitive.
Designers start by uploading a 3D model of the product they want to produce. There are free tools available to create a 3D model if the team using Emersya does not have a design background. Emersya’s customer support team can assist as well.
When the 3D asset has been created, it can be used to create an interactive and AR product experience for retail. It can be animated to enable customers to simulate product features, visualize interior components, and enlarge the view to get a better look.
Using Emersya’s augmented-reality platform, a company’s designer, like this sneaker manufacturer, can build a 3D model of its product. The 3D asset can then be displayed on the manufacturer’s website so that customers can view the product to decide whether to purchase it.Emersya
The designers can share the virtual product with other team members for feedback, which they can provide directly on the platform by leaving notes. Collaborators can rate the designs on a scale of 1 to 5 so that teams can vote to determine their favorite.
Once the final design or designs are selected, and the company is ready to sell the product, an HTML link is automatically generated to embed the 3D visualization on the retailer’s website.
Customers can go online to examine the 3D representation and learn more about the item’s features. If, for example, customers are deciding whether to purchase a baseball cap, they can click on the image to read about the hat’s features, and they can rotate it to see different angles.
Emersya also can provide product information in different languages.
Customization: The future of retail
Emersya’s platform can help customers create their own custom products. Appliance manufacturer KitchenAid, headquartered in Benton Harbor, Mich., integrates Emersya’s 3D configurator on its website to let customers choose the color of the doors and handles. Surf clothing brand Billabong, headquartered in Gold Coast, Australia, allows customers to select a range of colors and prints for their wetsuit and to add text if they like.
Emersya also offers an augmented-reality tool for retailers to incorporate on their websites and embed on their mobile apps. The tool enables customers to visualize their selected product for scale in their physical surroundings.
Luggage retailer Samsonite USA, headquartered in Mansfield, Mass., incorporates the AR technology on its website so customers can select a suitcase and then take a photo of themselves to gauge the relative size of the luggage. The AR feature gives customers a more comprehensive view of the product—which helps them make a more informed decision, Vaysset says.
Samsonite’s interactive Web AR experience powered by Emersya
A monthly subscription starts at a little more than US $300 (€290) for a small project and goes up from there depending on the company’s size, the number of collaborators, and the number of products and configurations designed.
Ready to ship while reducing waste
Many of the businesses that use Emersya’s platform manufacture on demand instead of in mass quantities. “It saves companies from making more than they can sell,” Vaysset notes.
That is especially true of fashion-industry companies, which typically offer collections split into four seasons: spring/summer, autumn/winter, resort, and pre-fall.
“Overproduced products have a big impact on the environment, and our goal is to help companies be environmentally friendly,” Vaysset says. “Not to mention, being wasteful is expensive for companies.”
He adds that providing more product information and—in some cases—customization options to customers reduces returns.
Every year, companies in the United States spend almost $50 billion on product returns. The returned goods are responsible for massive landfill waste and produce more than 24 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually, according to an article in Fast Company.
Vaysset became interested in interactive 3D for the Web in 2008 while pursuing his master’s degree in computer science and computer graphics at École Supérieure d’Ingénieurs de Luminy, in Marseille, France. The technology was emerging at the time, and he recognized an opportunity to apply it for product development online.