The top3 story began with a woman, a walrus and a trapeze artist. The founders were in Germany when they saw a cabaret show featuring only the best acts in their field. Top3 founder Terri Winter explains, ‘Why couldn’t this same experience translate to retail – where customers know they will find something wonderful?’
Top3 has since evolved with a vision of sourcing only the best-designed products from around the world and serving them up in a clever instore and online retail experience. As the name suggests, top3 features the 3 best items in their respective class, by merit of design – everything from homewares and accessories to kitchen, dining and outdoor furniture. Their total range is over a thousand products, but never more than 3 of the best from a particular brand. It’s an incredible concept which has spawned successful stores across Australia.
When top3 first started their physical and online stores in 2001, they produced clever mood boards to show customers how products would fit together. While this made use of current technology, the challenge remained in how customers could visualise a product in their own home. Fast forward to 2017 and Australian-based startup INHAABIT, have partnered with top3 to produce an Augmented Reality app which promises to revolutionise the way we shop.
Titled top3 AR, the iPhone and iPad app allow customers to place a selected piece of top3 furniture in their living room, home office or garden with incredible detail, scale and accuracy. Unlike anything else in the AR space, the focus is on realism, with unparalleled attention to detail, materials and colours. You can walk right up to products, see how they appear in your home, look at the detailed fabric, spin them around, reposition and change colours to suit your environment. INHAABIT Director, Jordan Yim says, “Thanks to Apple’s ARKit, we’ve reached the point where technology is powerful enough to show Augmented Reality products that actually look real. We’ve tested our AR products next to real items and some of them are almost indistinguishable.”
One of the key reasons that top3 and INHAABIT partnered to build an app, was a unified vision that AR will be how customers experience retail in the future. Historically, the introduction of online stores changed the way people shop. No longer did they need to visit shopping centres to see a variety of brands and choices in one place. As technology moved forward, shopping via mobile apps became a necessary part of a successful retail ecosystem. Augmented Reality is on a similar path, with amazing potential to evolve mobile and online shopping.
The top3 AR app is incredibly easy to use. It allows people to be more brave, try colours or styles that they may not otherwise have considered. It gives people a real shopping experience even though they may not be anywhere near a physical store. Terri Winter concludes, “Augmented Reality is the new way we will plan, design and create our surroundings.”
The top3 AR app is built exclusively in ARKIT for iOS 11, iPhone and iPad. Its purpose is to showcase the best designed products in the world, as realistic as possible via Augmented Reality, and provide a more engaging retail experience. INHAABIT’s custom rendering process ensures models have beautiful, detailed textures, matching the colour and lighting of the real object.
INHAABIT Director, Jordan Yim says, “One of our key company focuses is to bring design and technology together. This is something that the Apple ecosystem and user base is perfect for, as Apple is a brand that understands these concepts better than anyone else. We decided to release the app on iOS, as Apple does the best job of managing frameworks, devices and compatibility. In particular, iOS doesn’t have hundreds of different branded devices with hundreds of screen sizes, that we need to cater for. It immediately provides access to millions of users who can experience Augmented Reality right now on their existing devices – that’s really important to us.”
Top3 is ecstatic to have a world leading, Augmented Reality app available on the app store. Founder Terri Winter says, “We love being at the forefront of technology and enable a memorable experience. Many of our previous online retail features were created with specialists, before they were out in the market. So we are super excited about the collaboration with INHAABIT, to take advantage of Apple’s new AR capabilities.”
From a business perspective, top3 aim to create technology that is invisible, but provides real benefits to users. Augmented Reality ticks this box and when combined with online shopping and future updates which will allow customers to visualise an array of different types of products, the future is extremely bright.
The top3 AR app will also be featured on Australian national TV on Channel TEN’s Australia By Design – Innovations, in November 2017. This series focuses on design innovation and awards a prize at the end of the season for the top 10 innovations of the year.
Terri continues, “Technology should enhance our lives make them more interesting, provide more options and less waste. As an example, imagine making a sofa in a certain finish and colour, only to find that it’s not what the customer had in mind for their holiday home. Freight alone could be hundreds or even thousands of dollars, creating unnecessary emissions and congestion. With top3 AR, customers can very realistically see what they are ordering, explore multiple colour options in their own home and add them to a shopping cart to make a purchase.”
Another area that makes top3 AR unique, is that the company has been a passionate supporter of 100% authentic and original design. top3 only sells original products, created by the original designers, from authorised brands around the world. When users visualise products in AR, they are experiencing classic design, at its best.
Terri concludes, “We have been wanting to work with Augmented Reality for some time now, but previously the technology was not capable of achieving the accuracy and detail we needed. When we first saw the top3 AR demo, we literally kept looking over the iPhone to see if there was a real Muuto Outline sofa sitting there. It’s truly that awesome.”
Author: Jason Yim
Jason is the Director of Marketing at INHAABIT and has over 20 years experience creating digital solutions in areas of design, UX, branding, digital marketing & Augmented Reality.