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Apple's AR ambitions could expand into Personal Shopping and tech support sessions

The familiar online Apple Store (rear iPhone) will always be with us, but we may be able to virtually meet an Apple Genius

Using hardware like Apple Vision Pro, future Apple Store Personal Shoppers could demonstrate devices to users, and show the products interactively within the customer's home.

Apple already uses AR to preview new devices, such as letting a prospective Mac Pro user see just how big that machine will be on their desk. Even Apple doesn't do it for every device, though, and new research about personal shopping suggests that it intends to.

A recently-granted patent called "Guided Retail Experience" shows Apple merging AR with its current online chat system. Instead of a text box, this patent proposes showing users see live video of an Apple Store Personal Shopper.

"Conventional electronic consumer experiences allow a user to browse and purchase products online with an electronic device, such as a laptop or desktop computer, tablet computer, or smartphone," says Apple.

"[However, online] shopping can lack the instantaneous feedback, answers to questions, suggestions, demonstrations of products, and human connection of an in-person shopping experience," they say. "Additionally, the user is unable to fully interact with the online representation of the product and, therefore, cannot truly experience a full demonstration of the product while in a remote environment."

While "Guided Retail Experience" is now a granted patent, it was applied for 2021 alongside a very similar "Guided Consumer Experience" patent application which has now been granted too. It concerns the same issues, just with minutely different emphasis.

"Guided Retail Experience," for example, is concerned with how a Personal Shopper and products can be shown to the user, perhaps through an entire virtual Apple Store.

Detail from the patent showing an Apple Store Personal Shopper demonstrating in your home
Detail from the patent showing an Apple Store Personal Shopper demonstrating in your home

On the other hand, the "Guided Consumer Experience" patent concentrates on what a user will see about a specific product in such an environment.

Parts of that granted patent are also similar to an Apple Vision Pro one where comparison shopping is improved by the device displaying key information next to the products.

A virtual Apple Store

The patent and the patent application are two sides of the same coin, and ultimately Apple is looking for all-round shopping improvements. It believes it can do this via augmented reality, and that you have enough money left over after buying Vision Pro to carry on shopping.

"This allows a user to remain in a remote environment while having an interactive shopping experience with the salesperson," says Apple, "who can provide relevant products, make suggestions based on the interaction, and facilitate full demonstrations of various products and services in the CGR environment."

"The salesperson can cause a product, or a collection of products, to be displayed in the CGR environment," continues Apple, "and the user can interact with the products to perform a demonstration of the product with or without input from the salesperson."

This all provides "the user with a retail experience that is in a remote environment such as the user's house, but with the benefits and capabilities of an in-person shopping experience."

Detail from the patent application showing the Apple Store app with an in-video Personal Shopper
Detail from the patent showing the Apple Store app with an in-video Personal Shopper

Across the two related patents, Apple proposes a range of interactions. The salesperson could be in a chatbox-like window, just with video instead of text. Or the salesperson could even be shown, through AR, as being in the user's room.

The consumer-focused patent is credited to Jonathan S. Reiling and Alexander B. Oser. The latter is the sole inventor on the patent regarding retail guideance, and his previous related work includes the use of AR to make TV sports more interactive.