At the recent Outdoor Retailer Snow Show in Denver, Colorado, Mountain Hardwear had high hopes for its show participation. There, company executives unveiled an innovative Augmented Reality (AR) experience, aiming to attract and engage young consumers while simultaneously addressing their retail partners’ needs to visualize forthcoming products.
To develop their forward-thinking AR project, Mountain Hardwear chose international award-winning, next-generation creative studio Transparent House. Not only did the overwhelming popularity of the project exceed Mountain Hardwear’s hopes, it also earned a “Best in Show” award, from the editors of GearJunkie Magazine.
In their show recap, GearJunkie wrote, “Try a tent before buying it by setting it up in your living room, getting inside, and filling it with other gear like sleeping bags and packs. Only this time, do all that from your smart device! Mountain Hardwear unveiled the next leap in online shopping with a proprietary augmented reality app that allows users to see true-to-size gear in an immersive environment.”
On the first day of the show, Mountain Hardwear’s news release emphasized the importance of photorealistic visualization for consumers. “We believe the ability to superimpose digital products and information on a user’s actual environment will change retail,” proclaimed the brand’s VP of Global Marketing, Snow Burns.
Jeff Brandon, the brand’s Associate Director of Brand Deployment, also weighed in: “This technology enables a more informed gear-shopping experience in a fraction of the time.”
News of the project quickly reached beyond the show. Michael Tchong – trend forecaster, principal of Ubercool Innovation and author of the forthcoming book “Ubertrends: How Trends and Innovation Are Transforming Our Future” – raved: “The development work of Transparent House in augmented reality heralds a new future of retail visualization – a mandatory feature in a world that caters to a surging wave of millennials and digital natives who demand more visually stimulating online shopping experiences.”
Mountain Hardwear is now set to continue rolling out additional assets to expand its virtual gear closet, reporting that retailers and consumers can expect to download a fully functional app later this year. In the meantime, executives from Transparent House are eager to shine more light on their work behind the scenes.
“Our company began working in the 3D graphics industry in 2004,” said Transparent House President Denis Krylov. “Over this span of time, our 3D expertise has grown to the point that we understand exactly how to optimize and integrate renders into different software. We are very proud of this particular application, which delivers an elegant, almost magical experience.”
Led by Krylov as Executive Producer along with David Scott Van Woert as Director of Business Development, TH’s other executives involved include Head of Production Hideki Kawata and Head of Development Denis Vasilev. Beginning last June with a briefing provided by Burns and Brandon, all aspects of this project came together just in time for the debut in Denver.
“After testing different technologies around components like lighting around a user, surface detection algorithms, different types of surfaces, the complexity of 3D models, materials, textures, and more – we selected Apple’s ARkit as the best solution,” Scott Van Woert explained.
Going into a bit more detail, starting from the brand’s 2D CAD drawings, Transparent House handled all of the production and technical development facets. A combination of industry-standard 3D programs was used to create high fidelity 3D models, and special texturing plugins were used to generate photorealistic shaders to output AR-ready assets.
“Optimization is one area where our experience was highly impactful,” Vasilev added. “AR integration presents some serious integration constraints. Addressing those involved adopting lightweight game asset production techniques to retain details in our 3D models.”
Vasilev continued, “The resulting high fidelity visuals surpassed everyone’s expectations, including all of those who tried the experience at Mountain Hardwear’s booth.”
Additional steps for Transparent House involved user interface and user experience (UI/UX) design, and design and development of promotional campaign assets.
See the first-generation Mountain Hardwear A/R Experience in action:
About Mountain Hardwear
Mountain Hardwear, Inc., founded in 1993 and based in Richmond, CA, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Columbia Sportswear Company (Nasdaq: COLM) that distributes its products through specialty outdoor retailers in the United States and 34 countries worldwide. We build essential equipment for climbers, mountaineers, and outdoor athletes and have supported expeditions on the world’s highest peaks. This level of technical precision continues to inspire everything we do. Our designers challenge every stitch and detail to continuously improve both function and comfort.