30/08/2016 09:45 BST | Updated 30/08/2017 06:12 BST

Pokemon Gets Physical

Virtual Products Come to Life for Consumers

By David Akka, Digital Forming CEO

The latest game craze is showing the addictive power of merging virtual and physical worlds.

Swarms of people from New York to Sydney are running about, staring and tapping intently at their eye-level phones. They're playing the hit game Pokémon Go, searching for cute monsters that appear magically in playgrounds and parks. Part of the fascination is witnessing the merging of virtual and physical worlds. Today, the same technology is enabling people to engage with brands in innovative ways that make for memorable shopping experiences.

Virtual Retail Realities

Although there has been publicity about using Pokemon Go to bring players inside stores in pursuit of Pikachu, the real power in the underlying technology is its ability to create virtual images of 3D products on the computer screen.

E-Commerce was initially designed to break the physical barriers between brands and consumers to bring the shopping experience closer to home. But the original web pages were flat like the paper catalogues they were designed to imitate. Now augmented and virtual reality technologies are bringing products to life on the screen. Now the transition from the virtual to physical products is simpler and faster than ever.

Lego is implementing augmented reality powered kiosks that enable children to scan the box of Lego to see what the finished product will look like, in 3D on the screen. eBay Australia in cooperation with Myer has created "Sight Search" where the top 100 products are viewable in three dimensions, letting users rotate, zoom in, and examine them in greater detail.

Providing 3D shopping experiences provides deeper and more intimate connection with brands, which is the basis for emotional branding. But an even more powerful experience is enabling customers to use virtual 3D design tools to co-create the things they buy and then see them come to life.

Virtual Products Get Physical

The entire value chain from design, manufacturing to product delivery has been individualized enabling consumers to create products that are shipped to their door step. As a result, sellers of everything from dress shirts to handbags and even consumer packaged goods are now discovering the value of enabling customers to co-design using 3D technologies.

For example, Lowe's enables homeowners to create personalized vases, initialized hooks for hanging children's clothes, and cabinet knobs from ten different materials. Buyers can design their own Skoda Fabia car, even have their name printed on the chassis, and then pick up a 3D printed version when they arrive to test drive the real thing. Normal, lets customers take a picture of their ear to create custom ear buds for their headphones. If you are looking to purchase an engagement ring, Blue Nile will let you select from over 100,000 diamonds based on colour, clarity, and carats, and then design your own setting.

Now with on-line design, and easy to use software web pages become closer to reality enabling consumers to create and manufacture a unique product faithful to their vision.

Pokemon Go may be child's play, but the ability to create personalized items using 3D technology is big business. As flat screens can look more like storefronts, consumers can create one-of-a-kind products that become real in their living rooms.