EZ Swim

Service Design using Augmented Reality

One of the biggest consumer swimming-pool retailers in Brazil asked CreativeBitBox to come up with a solution that could improve their customer experience and ultimately increase their revenue.

Year

2011

Role

Service and Product Design

Team

Unity Developer, Computer Vision specialist, iOS Developer

Initial Contact

The client approached us with a need to modernize their sales service. Their initial idea was to work towards the development of an app that could support their sales representatives on the field. Some sort of catalog that would allow them to access their product portfolio with good quality imagery as well as technical specifications.

Research

After this first contact, I decided to do some research on their business model. It seemed to me that there was a larger and more interesting challenge under the surface. At first glance this project goal seemed to be oriented towards a digital product catalog application that would allow sales representatives to better display and sell company products. However, I felt that I needed to know more about how they actually conducted their sales.

To better understand the problem, I conducted some informal interviews with different sales representatives trying to map their workflow.

Here are the key aspects we needed to understand:

  • How do customers first engage with the company?
  • What is the process from the first contact to final sale?
  • What’s the conversion rate?
  • What kind of activities take place at each step?
  • What kind of activities do not add value to the process?
  • What is the average customer satisfaction?

Key Insights

  • Customers first contact with the company usually happened through physical stores or online.
  • After that first contact, sales representatives would visit the costumer house bringing with them a printed catalog.
  • Selling swimming-pools is a difficult task. It is an expensive investment and most of their customers were not entirely sure if the pool would fit their needs such as the available space, materials, aesthetics, etc.
  • A lot of back and forth: to the store to look at the available options; to the house to take measurements and take care of paperwork.

Reframing the Problem

Customers were not confident in their choices because they couldn’t have a clear understanding of what they were buying. On the other hand, sales representatives were spending enormous amount of time per customer which would in the end represent less profit for the company. Besides the need for a digital catalog, there was clearly an opportunity for us to improve and reduce home visits.

Solution

One of our objectives was to maximize waste reduction. What could be done to reduce home and store visits while increasing customer’s confidence in their investment? How could we turn the tasks of buying and selling a swimming pool into an objective, appealing and satisfying experience?

At the time we were also researching and developing our own computer vision technologies and this project seemed like the perfect opportunity to apply it to solve our client’s business challenges as well as their customers experience.
We decided to propose a solution that integrated a digital catalog with an augmented reality (AR) environment.

How does it work?

  1. The sales rep. would arrive at the customer’s house and lay a marker on the ground where the customers planned to have the swimming-pool installed.
  2. Run the app on a tablet
  3. Point the camera to the marker
  4. The app would recognize the marker and render a virtual representation of the swimming pool in real time.
  5. The customer could then walk around the simulation, evaluate and make a better-informed decision.

The Catalog

The first component of the solution was to develop a catalog that was simple to use, high quality product image and access to manufacturers specifications. I developed different layouts and leveraged the brand colors to create a unified and coherent experience.
App view of the Catalog
Product listing with search and filtering capabilities
Product Details
Details about the product as well as a quick vertical navigation and the possibility to use the augmented reality mode to simulate the product in real-time.

Augmented Reality

The Augmented Reality (AR) module was developed using Unity, OpenCV and delivered to iOS. I worked directly with the client and our developer to gather and convert all the 3D assets needed to support the experience.

It was a very interesting technical challenge. Despite not being the first time we were working with augmented reality the physical scale required by this project had us working together outdoors.

We developed a solid prototype as proof of concept with a fluid experience.

When the app recognizes the tracker placed on the ground it renders a 3D model superimposed to the camera image. This provides a useful preview of the product after the installation.

Camera Tracking
This marker allows the software to detect the object’s position relative to the camera
Superimposed Reality
By recognizing the camera relative position to the tracker the app is able to overlay the 3D model

Conclusion

This was definitely a very exciting project in many ways. We worked in straight collaboration with the client to uncover workflow gaps and ways to improve their user experience. Brainstormed ways to fill in the gaps and reduce waste in their process.
We developed a prototype and proof of concept, which validated our technology capabilities.

The client was very satisfied with the result and the solution, however, due to a sudden internal reorganization and changes in their business direction this project didn’t get into production.