Navigating store shelves for the toothpaste or that one last item on the grocery list can add to the little frustrations of a shopping experience. Walgreens thinks augmented reality will help. Its store loyalty-app partner Aisle411 is testing Google's Tango technology to add 3-D imagery to its in-store maps. The result is a mobile app that's part loyalty and discount program and part immersive product finder.
Since early June, the drugstore chain has tested the enhanced version of its branded app internally at four stores in Chicago, New York, Seattle and St. Louis, where Aisle411 is based. The trial is expected to run for two or three months, according to Nathan Pettyjohn, CEO of Aisle411.
If eventually made available to shoppers, the final product will come in the form of a mobile-phone app or a tablet that could be mounted to a shopping cart.
"This initiative enables us to further explore how Walgreens can create an even more convenient and relevant customer experience," said a Walgreens spokeswoman. "The test allows participants to reimagine the retail experience and explore what future enhancements could be made to better meet customer need."
Using Google's Tango technology, the mobile-app firm creates a three dimensional map of each retail location using a special camera that captures 2 million data points per second and takes into account the user's orientation. It merges that information with retailer floor plans and data showing where products are on shelves.
"We can get it to literally to about 10 cm of accuracy," said Mr. Pettyjohn of the augmented reality tech.
Aisle411 already has 12,500 retail stores including Walgreens and Home Depot locations mapped using its original non-3-D tech. People use the current version to search for products and get precise store-shelf locations. "We're now turning the utility into an immersive game-like experience inside the store," he said.
Walgreens has worked with Aisle411 since 2012.
For now the test mainly is geared toward helping people find specific items, and surfacing store discounts on products, rather than tying in deals derived from brand partners. The system will, however, reward loyalty points. For instance, as someone walks down the aisle, a notification might pop up on her tablet suggesting she visit the cold-drinks section to get reward points.
"The thought is, 'Hey, we can encourage you to discover more products and build a bigger basket,'" said Mr. Pettyjohn.
The company does not provide any personal information in its reports to customers such as Walgreens, said Mr. Pettyjohn.
Walgreens wouldn't discuss the types of data it is collecting or will collect through its app.