Volumetric Video Provides New Standard for Viewing Images Online with Impacts to E-commerce and Other Industries
Over the last few years, e-commerce sales have seen incredible growth, especially when it comes to apparel. By 2023, the global fashion industry is expected to reach $672.71 billion in sales through e-commerce alone. Even with the negative impact of COVID-19 on nearly every industry around the world, people are buying clothes at a record-setting pace. But with more sales than ever, retailers are being forced to confront some of the inefficiencies inherent in e-commerce. That has given forward-thinking retailers, those willing to experiment with new e-commerce technologies, a big advantage.
An obvious drawback for consumers buying online is the inability to physically interact with the merchandise. One of the biggest complaints with online shopping is that you can rarely feel certain that what you order will be exactly what you receive. And even if it is, a piece of clothing that fits one person perfectly may not fit another the same way. But brands are beginning to find an answer for that in volumetric video, which allows shoppers to better understand the way the selected fabric moves, how the colors react to light and how the clothing compliments a wearer. The technology also gives users the ability to see the products from any angle and any distance, including close-ups and wider views.
“Volumetric video has seen an incredible surge of growth thanks to companies like Arcturus that are finding new ways to make it more accessible to larger audiences and more industries,” said Kotani Hajime, CEO of Crescent. “For industries like retail that are looking for new ways to stand out, volumetric video gives them options they never imagined possible, even a few years ago.”
In 2021, Japanese fashion brand ANAYI offered a look at how technology can help bridge the gap between the in-home and brick-and-mortar experience. In a first-of-its-kind test, ANAYI turned to Arcturus’ HoloSuite to conduct a trial, using volumetric video on their website and augmented reality on mobile phones. The results exceeded expectations. Total page views more than doubled over five months compared to the same period the year prior. The performance of the volumetric video collection was more than triple the typical page views. Toshio Takase, e-commerce section manager, ANAYI division, hailed the success of the trial, saying, “volumetric videos are a way to go beyond what traditional videos can offer, and it’s something our customers clearly respond to.”
ANAYI teamed up with Arcturus’ partner, Crescent, one of Japan’s top production companies and owner of the world’s largest volumetric studio, to volumetrically capture 19 separate articles of clothing from ANAYI’s 2021 Spring/Summer collection. Each article of clothing was worn by a model seen in motion, with cameras capturing every angle of their gait. Online shoppers viewing ANAYI’s website had the option of viewing the clothes in a traditional format or hitting the button marked “4D view.” That introduced a series of controls that allowed the viewer to see the model in motion from any angle. Users on a mobile device could go even further and tap the “3D Hologram” button, or scan a QR code, to see a holographic, 3D model appear in front of them using web-based augmented reality.
Volumetric video is finding new ways for users to access the technology more than ever before, while offering a different, more accessible way to create a 3D image of a person. Traditionally, 3D scans of subjects have been the providence of motion capture, which require dozens, if not hundreds of cameras, and an army of artists taking months to recreate humans in CG that then overlays the motion capture. It is an expensive and time consuming process that often results in a look that many refer to as the uncanny valley. Volumetric video supersedes all that by capturing the real person, in makeup and costume, on stage immediately — eliminating the need to recreate the person in CG (as well as the expense of all those artists and time). A person's real image is filmed, with all the nuance that video offers.
Regardless of the method, volumetric video creates a large quantity of data that needs to be managed, edited and ultimately delivered to the user, ideally through a streaming platform. That’s where Arcturus’ HoloSuite comes in. For each model captured on Crescent Studios’ stage, with multiple cameras capturing every detail down to the thread, a massive file was created. Using the HoloEdit tool, ANAYI was able to easily edit the clip as a 3D model, with artists able to view and alter the subject from multiple angles, for multiple platforms. By having dedicated tools for editing and compression, brands like ANAYI can reduce project time and complexity and manage their work using common 3D volumetric file formats.
After compression, the 19 clips were delivered to both desktop computers and mobile devices thanks to HoloStream, which features an adaptive component that ensures a consistent, high-quality video stream, similar to how streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video maintain quality across multiple devices under varying circumstances. As a result, HoloSuite has removed caps on the length of the volumetric videos, opening the door to endless possibilities. For AR playback of ANAYI’s collection, HoloSuite integrated the edited volumetric files with 8th Wall, bringing a holographic fashion show to the living room of any user with a mobile smart
The web-based augmented reality experience works across iOS and Android devices, without needing an app. Of course, consumers didn’t see any of this. Instead, they simply saw the products as they really were, in three dimensions. It was an article of clothing that they could envision themselves wearing, and purchase with the confidence that they won’t have to return it days later.
The results of the ANAYI campaign reaffirmed the role volumetric video can play in the future of e-commerce, especially as market saturation creeps in and retailers need to find new ways to stand out. Capture technology is becoming more accessible, and the pipeline carved out by HoloSuite will help make volumetric video a possibility for more brands. In the future, we’ll no longer be tied to 2D to consume content. Instead, volumetric video will become the standard for viewing images online. And with the rise of the metaverse, volumetric video will become an essential component for showcasing and viewing different photorealistic styles on 3D humans, which will further improve the virtual shopping experience.
E-commerce will be a leader in showcasing the power of volumetric video across sectors, but it won’t be alone. Volumetric video has already begun to impact industries from sports to music to visual effects. This will accelerate with new technology (including more accessible cameras and hardware), and another part will come with the simple recognition of just how much volumetric video can do. It’s a deeper, richer way to experience video, and creates an entirely new set of options.