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5 WAYS RESTAURANTS CAN THRIVE DURING COVID (AND AFTERWARDS) BY USING AUGMENTED REALITY

BY TODD RAMSEIER

From finicky customers to constantly evolving fads, restaurants must always adapt fast to succeed. Finding new ways to draw in customers, keeping them and your staff safe, and turning a profit have all faced new challenges in 2020, especially due to Covid-19. Finding something that’s more than just a trend might be the difference between success and failure for many restaurants.

This is where Augmented Reality comes in. What is Augmented Reality? Often referred to as AR, it’s a digital overlay on the real world. AR could involve something as simple as scanning a special image or QR code with your phone (a task most of us are familiar with) and seeing a digital image or text, or as complex as seeing strange creatures living in your world, much like Pokemon Go. And while it’s generally frowned upon to let critters roam free around your restaurant, the technology that makes it possible might be one of the tools you need to succeed. (Caution: AR does not, of course, attract critters, but may attract the youthful generation that loves playing the game, driving up your sales!)

How will Augmented Reality help your business? Let’s look at five common struggles for restaurants, especially in 2020, and how AR might be the answer you seek.

1. AR can help manage labor costs.

One of the joys of being a business owner is providing stable jobs for others, but offsetting that against the company’s revenue is always a careful balance. Due to Covid, a number of restaurants are going through financial trouble and the costs of hiring and training new wait staff for an often limited dining experience (outdoor only, etc.) can be burdensome. This is a significant piece of feedback we hear from owners time and time again.

If you implement Augmented Reality correctly, however, you can smooth out the front of house operations, freeing up labor costs almost immediately. How? Customers can check into the restaurant, view the menu, and pay from their phone, all using AR. That’s a lot of pressure off your hosts/hostesses. Want to take it a step further? You can even allow customers to order straight from their digital devices!

There’s no true replacement for well-trained front of house associates. However, you can take a lot of pressure off them, saving labor, and creating an amazing experience for everyone involved. This means more freedom to manage your labor costs efficiently.

2. AR can provide added safety.

It’s no secret that 2020 brought new challenges no one saw coming. The global pandemic has made being out in public a challenge and dining at restaurants moreso. But let’s look at some of the features above and how they can also help keep everyone safer.

Allowing customers to check-in digitally through an Augmented Reality experience triggered by their phone’s camera means less face-to-face interaction up front, and no little vibrating gizmos being handed from person to person. Your host/hostess can be the recommended 6 feet away, and everyone stays safer for it.

Once customers are seated, instead of using menus which have come in contact with various hands, displaying a digital, interactive AR menu directly from the customer’s phone protects everyone involved. From menu to payment, the amount of physical contact is lowered significantly. In fact, the only point of contact is with the silverware and dishes which are thoroughly sanitized during the dishwashing cycle.

3. AR can help you get to know your customers better.

As your customers order via a digital AR menu from their phones, you now have the opportunity to get to know them on a deeper level: is that 1/4 pound burger getting clicked on but not ordered? Maybe it’s time to adjust the price or add more information to it. Maybe your best-selling salad is constantly being ordered with ranch instead of vinaigrette – you get to know that too. Your beautiful AR menu becomes a great tool for analytics that can help drive your menu offerings. What’s more, you no longer need to reprint an entire paper menu to change prices or offerings; by having a digital menu, you’re just a few clicks from having everything up to date!

Being able to really adapt on the fly, to the niche of your customers, lets you deliver a better product every time. Your customers will feel like you’re reading their minds and be grateful for it.

4. AR is great for accessibility.

This is something we’ve noticed that isn’t talked about much, but is huge for a multitude of reasons. Augmented Reality technology, combined with the fast data capabilities of modern tech, is perfect for accessibility. For example, your AR menu can instantly display multiple languages, eliminating barriers for tourists or non-English speakers. AR also means better options for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, as interactive menus can provide better and larger quantities of information compared to a paper menu. It’s even possible for customers to simply filter menu items by dietary restrictions or get a digital image of each and every dish you provide.

By creating an experience that more people can take part in, dining at your restaurant becomes so much more than just a virtual experience delivered through AR: you’re creating a practical solution that is more inclusive to all of your patrons.

5. Using AR in your restaurant can increase revenue.

Return on investment, a concept all business owners are familiar with. How does having Augmented Reality create positive ROI, outside of the ways listed above?

The main thing to consider is that you have your brand in your customer’s pocket. If they swipe up on their phone, there’s your logo. But what’s even more? They don’t have to be in your restaurant to spend money.

More and more business owners are learning that customers don’t disappear when they leave: breweries are launching beer clubs, and some are going delivery and catering, while others are making killer merchandise. There’s no limit to where you can reach when your brand is in everyone’s hand. In 2019 it was estimated that Americans check their phone 96 times per day. Where else can you get that amount of impressions?

Your customers could potentially be sitting comfortably at home and see what your food looks like. Or perhaps you could make it fun, and they can interact with a digital version of your mascot when scanning coupon mailers. AR adds depth to your presence digitally, making you stand out from the crowd.

Many food and beverage companies have already embraced Augmented Reality. Major chains like Starbucks and Burger King are creating ways to bring their product to life and every day the list of companies is growing longer. Not too long ago Dominos, for example, made it possible for customers to order a pizza using Snapchat’s AR capabilities.

Save money, make money and increase safety in the meantime? There’s one thing for certain: it’s hard to find services out there that can provide so many solutions with just one swipe and we’ve been working hard to make it happen. Here at Chewed Pixel Studios, we can custom-tailor an Augmented Reality experience to fit any restaurant, and we’d love to work with you to grow your business. After all, it’s what we do: solve problems with Augmented Reality to make you more money.


Got questions? Reach out here, and we’ll get back to you promptly!

5 TIPS FOR ADDING AUGMENTED REALITY (AR) TO YOUR EXISTING MARKETING STRATEGY

BY TODD RAMSEIER

When it comes to marketing, we know the number one priority is to increase sales. Whether your product is a physical item or a service, Augmented Reality can help make that happen. But as with any strategy, implementing it correctly is the key to watching it become a huge success to your sales and customers.

Here are 5 tips to adding AR to your already existing strategy:

1. Make it fun.

One of the biggest perks to AR, whether your customers use it directly, or your sales use to present, is that it’s fun. Capitalize on that and make it fun! Maybe your customers can change the colors of things, or get a cute avatar they can dress up. Maybe sales can get statistics on demand as they show off to the customer.

Taking the time to make the experience enjoyable, will create the desire to use your app. That impression will stick with the consumer far longer than generics, and your ROI will thank you for it.

2. Keep the branding consistent, tell your story!

Couple this with the first step, and you’re on your way to being viral! Your consumers will have those fond memories, and in those, will be your logos and colors. Most of us can still recall commercials that we loved from our childhood.

Taking the time to create an engaging AR experience, with consistent branding, and good storytelling and flow, will leave those lasting impressions for years, if not decades.

3. Less gimmicks.

Keep it simple. WWE did a great job creating a donation app. Instead of trying to compete with Pokemon Go, they made a simple AR experience where you got to feed a baby animal, and led you to their donation page. It was memorable, impressionable, and simple. They combined both steps 1, 2, and 3, to create something special.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of making AR or VR gimmicky, but we know they don’t last for long term. Can your consumers access discounts and sales through the app? Absolutely! But making that the only experience, will likely counter any long term ROI.

4. Add Value.

Building off the above, the key is to add value, if you’re adding AR to your existing strategies. This is another tool you have to create a lasting impression, win over customers, and keep current consumers engaged.

There are countless ways AR can do this, including geolocalization, so that customers will get content catered to them. Or perhaps they can chat live with customer service right from the app. Your imagination is the limit to adding value and creating a long term AR experience.

5. Use Analytics and Captures.

So you’ve worked with a great company like Chewed Pixel Studios, to build an AR experience. You’ve got it out in the world. The value doesn’t simply stop there!

There’s a lot of data you can start using depending on how you launched your app. Grab email addresses for direct marketing. Find out what products are generating the most interest. Analytics will allow you to continue growing your business and marketing strategy even farther.


There’s truly no limit to what Augmented Reality can do to grow your sales farther. Make the leap today, and discover why almost 90% of mid market businesses are leveraging AR in some form (Deloitte 2018). Your investors will thank you!

10 REASONS TO USE AUGMENTED REALITY FOR YOUR RETAIL BUSINESS

By Todd Ramseier

One of the first things you learn in retail is how fickle buyers are, and how little time you have to win them over. From small boutiques, to major chains, converting more people from walking by, to committing to buy, is the number one goal.

So does Augmented Reality (AR) help solve this? Does it really drive more sales? The brilliance behind AR is that solutions can be created for any business of any size and store. This means there are infinite ways for this technology to grow your sales.

Here are just 10 ways you could use AR today:

1. Get customers inside the store!

Hugo Boss did a great job all the way back in Christmas 2009. Cards were handed out and printed in ads, which, when scanned with a phone, would produce a Christmas themed personal fashion show. Once you entered the store, you could use that same card at a digital terminal, entering you into a virtual game of blackjack, in which shoppers had a chance to win money!

2. Display additional information about products.

Many stores have started to go this direction, from bookstores to grocery stores. Scan the item with your store app, and get information ranging from reviews, calories, coupons, and even sustainability scores. Having enough staff to answer consumer questions, especially during holiday seasons, can be daunting. Giving shoppers answers to those common questions up front can help free up that labor demand.

3. Have some fun with it!

While toy stores may benefit most, everyone knows adults like to have fun too. AR allows for great displays where people can try what they are buying! Lego allows you to scan a box, and a built version of that set will come alive right on the box you are holding! Maybe you sell off-road vehicles, and holding your device up to a vehicle will show a customer that vehicle coming to life, jumping across dunes and mountains!

4. Upsell!

Building off the last point. Harley-Davidson allowed customers to see their future purchase pulled up on an iPad. From there, they could fully customize their bike, from lights to seats and more. Being able to visualize the product will really help drive those additional high mark-up pieces. Which leads us to:


5. Build trust in the product.

Whether someone is buying in-store or digitally, one of the biggest reservations is trusting they are buying the right thing. Several companies including IKEA are allowing people to try out their products from the comfort of their own home. Placing furniture down virtually with their phone, or trying clothes on from their home mirror. The possibilities are truly endless.


6. Build trust in the brand.

Easing customers’ minds, giving them the tools to make better decisions and really enjoy their shopping experience. All these things cement the brand as one that is trustworthy, something that will keep them coming back for more. Studies show it’s easier to retain customers than it is to find new ones (HBR 2014). Your app now lives on their phone! 

7. Staff training.

The benefits of AR technology extend past the consumer. Training staff and giving them tools to do their job more efficiently can save just as much money as it can earn. From learning products to on-the-job training, to continued education. You can give your associates the best tools in the business.

8. Free up overhead.

Starting with being able to reduce the size of the storefront, as less product needs to be in front of the consumer. It can be used in the warehouse to optimize space! AR also can help with the shipping side, more efficiently finding the right sized boxes – effectively cutting down expensive shipping costs. It can go as far back as being used in manufacturing, giving production management tools to better optimize the production lines!

9. Reduce Returns.

Another cost saver. There’s been many studies done, and they all show that the majority of consumers want return assurance. They don’t want to pay for their return, and a whopping 96% would shop with a retailer again based on the ease of the return experience. (Narvar 2018)
Being able to get the right produce to the consumer, the first time, saves the company significant money, while allowing a better shopping experience.

10. It’s the future.

Regardless of all the benefits Augmented Reality has to offer, there’s one big one: it’s the future of shopping. Consumers love to buy from brands that are trendy, and keep up with current events. When implemented correctly, businesses can not only gain all the great results of AR, but they gain new opportunities that come along with staying ahead of the curve of technology.

There’s no hiding that humans are more and more attached to their phones. And there’s no doubt that staying up on the newest trends is a full-time job itself. But there are also tremendous benefits to embracing the newest tech that can help out businesses by leaps and bounds.
Augmented Reality is one of the next great tools available to assist your business, no matter the size.

WHAT UNITY’S (SUPPOSED) UPCOMING IPO MEANS FOR XR

BY BENJAMIN SAVAGE

So it’s very likely that Unity Technologies (or Unity, affectionately) will be going public in 2020, probably in the fall. How, if at all, will this affect XR development? To get a clear picture and a panoramic view of the situation, let’s start by realizing that over 60% of all XR content is created using Unity’s famous game engine. It’s the goose that lays the golden XR eggs. And becoming an XR-enabler was a very shrewd business move for them; they knew very well that many devs coming from a gaming background would latch on to these technologies. To top it off, Unity put a tasty icing on the cake by making the transition from game development to XR development nearly seamless. It’s even safe to say that if developers are already familiar with the Unity engine, they have very little to learn besides maneuvering around manageable APIs and how to integrate a few plugins.

So what will this mean financially for XR and what will it mean for XR development in general?

While many assume a “sky is falling” attitude on sites such as Reddit and Twitter (“RIP Unity”, “Time to switch to Godot”), it’s doubtful that any cataclysmic financial change will come about. We’ve seen familiar giants like Facebook and Twitter go public (though not without vocal portents of doom and gloom) with no bigger consequences in the end than a larger influx of cash. Hiccups, yes, but ruination, no. By definition, “going public” is really nothing more than making the switch from private investment and venture capital to public ownership via the stock market. In other words, Unity is basically being sold to the masses in shares. And if the masses think that Unity is doing a good job and will continue to do a good job, more people will buy Unity stock. And if Unity suddenly announces it plans to switch to the soft drinks market, people will ensure it dies a quick death by selling the stock. You get the picture. Could the whole thing flop and drive Unity to ruin? Possible, sure. But not likely.

However, the negative reactions on social media to Unity’s IPO don’t spout from the fear that the company’s financial health could be in trouble, but rather are founded more on the feeling that Unity will somehow become “more corporate” and “forget about the little guy”. On the contrary, Unity going public is much more democratic and pro “little guy”: although other people who have nothing to do with gaming or Spatial Computing will also be throwing their money at the company, we, the “little guy”, can also take part in the success of the company by buying stock and owning a piece of the company ourselves. The bottom line is that we need more publicly traded companies that work in XR because it’s a win-win: it’s very hard to deny the fact that more money floating around in the industry is a positive thing for all of us.

If you were to scour the panorama of publicly traded XR companies today, you’d find exactly what you’d expect: Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, Alphabet, Tencent, Sony, etc. However, these titans are mostly focused on the hardware end of things and certainly don’t provide you with independent tools to make rich, game-like experiences (with the possible exception of Facebook’s tiny Spark AR Studio). In fact, most of the software solutions that come out of these companies are often designed to be compatible with Unity’s game engine. As clever as you may be, you won’t be making the next Pokemon GO or Beat Saber (both made in Unity) with just ARKit. This sheds light on exactly how powerful the position Unity holds really is.

In fact, the only real competitor for Unity in the XR space is Epic, the creator of Unreal Engine. Unreal Engine is a bigger, more graphically powerful game engine, but with a slightly larger barrier to entry for some developers due to its enormity. This incredible “game engine with plate mail” doesn’t quite have the pull in XR that Unity does, but anything can happen in the years to come and we could one day see the tide turning to favor Unreal. To go out on a limb and wager a prediction (based on an article based on a prediction nonetheless!), after Unity makes their (supposed) announcement, I predict Epic will follow suit and announce an IPO a year or two later.

So will the increased influx of cash help Unity make better products? We developers sure hope so! I love developing my products in Unity and it has held a special place in my heart for years. I’ve been to the Unity offices in San Francisco a number times, have witnessed their massive presence at GDC over the years and have seen firsthand how obvious it is that the inspiration for their new features stems from direct developer feedback. This is an excellent thing and I wish more software companies listened to their customers as closely and as often. The Unity team is also very approachable and helpful – something which developers certainly appreciate.

So here’s hoping that Unity’s (supposed) IPO goes well, that they continue to listen to and keep a tight connection with their developers and that XR remains a central focus in the years to come. With the technological direction the world is taking recently, it seems highly unlikely that they will stray from this path.

REVIEW: THE INFINITE RETINA

Review: The Infinite Retina

by Irena Cronin and Robert Scoble

BY Benjamin Savage

It’s not every day that you have the pleasure of reading a good book that makes you say “wow”. And although there are many different flavors of “wow” books out there (my last “wow” book was Contagious by Jonah Berger), there are rarely those which let you peel back the onion and take a glimpse straight into the future. The wonderful Infinite Retina by Irena Cronin and Robert Scoble is that type of book.

It’s a journey through four paradigms, six technologies and seven visions of industry transformation which leads us all the way from the dawn of the personal computer to the advent of AR-assisted surgery and drone deliveries. We learn with fascination about the possibility of throwing on a pair of Augmented Reality glasses and experiencing a multifaceted and constantly changing augmented world of holograms which we can manipulate with our own hands. Likewise, we recoil in fear at the horrors of a dystopian society with omnipresent facial recognition and artificial intelligence capable of knowing more about you than you do. The book is a delicious 400-ish page buffet: although it’s perfectly enjoyable to read in a linear fashion, many of the chapters are independent which makes it easy to skip around and go to back to the parts which you found most interesting.

And who better to guide us on this journey? The title of the book, in fact, is derived from the authors’ Spatial Computing consulting company of the same name (Infinite Retina). They’ve spent decades peering into the crystal ball of tech trends and, quite frankly, given the information they’re privy to, and the key figures they’re in touch with, if they don’t have a good idea of where things are headed, I have no idea who would. For a mind-broadening experience I highly recommend giving them both a follow on Twitter (Cronin, Scoble).

The book starts off with a definition for Spatial Computing, which, for those of you not in the know, is an umbrella term encompassing all the technologies which enable humans or robots to move through real or virtual worlds. Spatial Computing not only includes the Augmented Reality (AR) / Virtual Reality (VR) / Mixed Reality (MR) trilogy (or the AR / VR duology if you prefer), but also Artificial Intelligence, Automated Vehicles, Sensor Technology and Computer Vision. Each of these elements factor into what the authors call the “fourth paradigm”, which represents the next logical step in the evolution of humankind’s interaction with technology. This paradigm is a direct result of the three previous phases: “The Arrival of the PC”, “GUI and Thinking” and “Mobile”.

But what are the core technologies which will pave the way for spatial computing? Cronin and Scoble delineate six different elements which will drive the Spatial Computing revolution: Optics and Displays, Wireless and Communications, Control Mechanisms (Voice, Eyes and Hands), Sensors and Mapping, Computing Architectures and Artificial Intelligence (Decision Systems). The remainder of part I is spent providing specific examples of how each technology (or combination of technologies) is poised to make an impact in the years to come.

Part II of the book focuses on the role that Spatial Computing has and will have in various industries as the six previously-mentioned technologies come into play more and more. We’re introduced to autonomous vehicles and how companies like Zoox, Waymo and Aurora are gearing up to shape the industry. We’re led through the emergence of virtual worlds and take an exciting tour of all the hardware used to produce them up until now (Hololens, Oculus Quest, Magic Leap, Varjo, etc.). A major nod is also given to the not-yet-officially-announced headset(s) from Apple, which the authors clearly see as a game-changer. The section on virtual worlds ends with a discussion of AR Clouds as well as an analysis of how the entertainment industry is beginning to be impacted by the new technology at our doorstep.

The book then switches gears to a discussion of the ways in which manufacturing will change in the years to come. A very salient and fascinating part of the manufacturing chapter is the concept of “digital twins” which are fundamentally digital copies of a factory which can be visited and interacted with without requiring human presence. Imagine working at an office in, say, Philadelphia, putting on a headset and having the ability to learn about or even monitor or interact with a car factory on the other side of the world! Incredible stuff.

The next section “Robot Consumers”, deals with how Spatial Computing will affect delivery systems (think robot-delivered pizza) and how the entire phenomenon of shopping will be turned on its head as new genres of shops like the checkout-free Amazon Go begin to pop up. Following this is a fascinating glimpse at the future of healthcare and virtual trading / banking.

To close off part II, there is a detailed explanation of how education will be affected by the Spatial Computing revolution. Interestingly enough, as the book was being finalized, the Covid 19 pandemic struck and many families were suddenly introduced to the phenomenon of virtual learning, though, of course, at a level much more primitive than that which the authors expect we’ll eventually reach. Cronin and Scoble give us a peek at the classrooms of the future and introduce the role that Spatial Computing will play in simulation and workplace training.

The final part of the book, Part III, begins with a look at the concept of “predictability” and how it relates to Spatial Computing. It’s followed by a survey of seven interesting case studies about pioneers in various relevant fields. Finally, to keep things grounded and to give a Tylenol to the head-in-the-clouds utopian fever that may arise in the reader, the end of Part III dives into a discussion about the downsides expected to arise as a result of these tectonic shifts.

The Infinite Retina is not a nerd-exclusive handbook, nor is it a college textbook full of daunting technobabble. Most, I think, would say it’s an easy read. The visuals are ample and the descriptions of concepts are broken down efficiently for the non-technical. I’ve even ordered a copy for my mother (not a techie) to help her understand what it is exactly that I do.

The Infinite Retina is the ideal book for tech-enthusiasts, gadget-collectors, the future-inquisitive, and dreamers. But whatever the reader’s background or spheres of interest happen to be, there’s something in it for them as well since, deep down, The Infinite Retina is really a story about our society. I would highly recommend giving it a read.

The Infinite Retina is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.

You can pick up a copy right here:

The Infinite Retina