TechBytes with Shrenik Sadalgi, Director of Next Gen Experiences, Wayfair

TechBytes with Shrenik Sadalgi, Director of Next Gen Experiences, Wayfair

Tell us about your role and the team/technology you handle at Wayfair.

As Head of Next, I lead Wayfair’s effort to explore far-future research and development, positioning the company to pioneer the future of retail by leveraging emerging technologies and looking at them with a long-term lens. Our team is driving ideation and engineering to help create next-generation customer experiences through technologies like mixed reality, spatial computing, artificial intelligence and more.

What is Wayfair and what are your current markets?

Wayfair is one of the world’s largest online destinations for the home. Through technology and innovation, we make it possible for shoppers to quickly and easily find exactly what they want from a selection of more than 14 million items across home furnishings, décor, home improvement, housewares and more.

How much have the 3D Commerce standards evolved in the last two years?

So far, production and distribution of 3D content in the retail industry has been a platform-specific effort and content has always stayed within the ecosystem of the respective retailers. But, 3D-driven immersive experiences are gaining momentum, and to scale these experiences across platforms and channels, we need standards and guidelines so 3D content be exchanged effectively and experienced consistently across platforms. The most promising effort so far has been by the Khronos Group glTF working group who aim to create the JPEG for 3D. The 3D Commerce Exploratory Group will explore the creation of standards and guidelines for the production and distribution of real-time 3D representations of products across a variety of endpoints, including search results, social feeds, ad units, in apps, on ecommerce websites, on mobile AR devices and VR/AR headsets. Through the realization of this group we’re making the initiative more inclusive, global, and hoping to accelerate standardization efforts.

How does Wayfair leverage 3D in its current product delivery?

Visual inspiration and discovery are key to creating the best possible shopping experience for home. Wayfair has always been on the forefront of introducing next-generation technologies to its millions of customers, and over the past several years, we have created a range of experiences that allow users to interact with 3D virtual representations of products, all the way from virtual design experiences, to seeing products in the context of their space.

Do you consider Customer Experience as a Product or a Service? Why do you think so?

Wayfair is committed to transforming the shopping experience for home, reimagining what’s possible in a category that is driven by visual imagery, inspiration and discovery. Through constant innovations, we’re creating experiences that allow our customers to find and engage with their favorite furniture and décor products in new and exciting ways.

Tell us about the recent and futuristic application of 3D digital content across various online platforms?

Having recently introduced two new mixed reality experiences, Wayfair is on the forefront of the most visionary explorations of what’s possible in retail, as mixed reality and spatial computing influence the future of the customer experience. In late 2018, we announced the launch of Wayfair Spaces, an interior design and room planning app that invites consumers to explore professionally designed rooms and visualize products in their homes at scale through mixed reality. Available on Magic Leap One, Creator Edition, Wayfair Spaces is powered by Magic Leap’s spatial computing platform. We also introduced the Wayfair shopping experience on Helio (Magic Leap’s spatial web browser).

Wayfair Spaces is a mixed reality design experience that presents a palette of three-dimensional rooms professionally curated by Wayfair’s own 3D artists and stylists, from contemporary living rooms and coastal kitchens to industrial office spaces. From a bird’s-eye view, users can browse these curated spaces for inspiration, and then drag individual furniture items into their real space, where they transform into true-to-scale products and anchor to their physical room. Users can also easily pull up product information and reviews.

Whether designing in Wayfair Spaces or exploring Wayfair products in the Helio web browser or using the View in Room 3D augmented reality feature on mobile phones, we’ve now given users multiple ways to explore products for the home and have fun designing spaces they’ll love through intuitive and delightful mixed-reality interactions.

Do you think Retail will transform itself with better 3D applications in the coming years? How?

The experience of shopping for items online will continue to evolve to best suit customer needs. We know that shopping for home starts with inspiration and discovery, driven by rich visual imagery that engages customers throughout high-consideration decisions and planning. 3D is transformative in that it helps to bridge the physical-digital gap and answer important questions like, how will an item look in my space? Can I see it from all angles? Will it fit?

Shrenik Sadalgi is an ideator, a futurist, a thinker-doer and a technologist. As head of Wayfair Next, he leads the exploration of far-future R&D for Wayfair where he’s pioneering the future of retail and home by leveraging emerging technologies. Shrenik also serves as Chairman of the Khronos 3D Commerce Exploratory Group, a group of leading retail and technology companies exploring the opportunity to accelerate the adoption of 3D experiences by establishing a set of universal standards for platform-agnostic 3D model creation and distribution.

Prior to joining Wayfair, he helped build Horizon Mobile out of the CTO’s office at VMware, helped create a pointer-based, interactive media system for TV at Hillcrest Labs, and an AR experience allowing users to collaborate and casually create music in a shared physical space called ARmonica that was exhibited at UIST 2010. Shrenik holds a Masters in Computer Science from Columbia University where he was a recipient of the MSTA fellowship.

wayfair logoWayfair believes everyone should live in a home they love. Through technology and innovation, Wayfair makes it possible for shoppers to quickly and easily find exactly what they want from a selection of more than 10 million items across home furnishings, décor, home improvement, housewares and more. Committed to delighting its customers every step of the way, Wayfair is reinventing the way people shop for their homes – from product discovery to final delivery.

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