Chi M Pham
I was so surprised when finding out that the Google Translator app has the AR function to translate anything on the fly by scan text on camera.
It is very easy to use. Users need to choose the two languages for translation, then hit the camera button. It is impressive how quickly the system can recognize the characters even of different writing systems like Cyrillic and Greek, not only Latin. The quality of the translation depends on the number of words that are recognized since the translation algorithms use the context to improve it. In any case, even if not all the words are recognized or organized in a proper sentence, the user is able to at least instantaneously get a clue of what might be written or the essential meaning of the message.
Another example of AR translation is for sign language. Although it is only a working prototype and needs a lot of improvements, the concept of translating sign language into spoken English is promising for people to communicate with each other.
Proptech is the name of a race by investors to pour money into technology for real estate, or so-called by Silicon Valley. Until recently, the biggest tech innovations in the residential real-estate market have come, from only listing sites like Zillow and Redfin. Yet, in the new wave, the startups are up for a much wider range of areas — “appraisals, building management, financing, co-working, co-living, building amenities, and empty retail space”.
Opendoor, a 4-year-old startup that flips homes, attracted attention in June when it announced it had raised $325 million from a long list of venture capitalists with the financing evaluation at more than $2 billion. The company’s goal is to make moving as simple as the click of a button. While the reality is far from the expectation, Opendoor has simplified the process of selling a home. The company uses a combination of data, software and a team of 50 human evaluators to assess a home’s value. If a customer accepts Opendoor’s value for their home, the company will buy the property, charging a 6.5 percent fee on average.
Opendoor’s business model has not been tested by the majority of the housing market, causing some skepticism about its long-term growth. However, the skepticism often fades as people realize that Opendoor makes money by providing a service to home sellers, rather than on price appreciation. So, even if the company breaks even on a sale, the transaction fees still bring in profit for Opendoor.
The retail sector has been struggling to keep its revenue up. Brick-and-mortar stores particularly have a hard time to make customers coming back and shop in-store because of online shopping. When price and convenience are compromised, physical stores now have to utilize and leverage their unique advantage: being “physical” to be experiential.
Experiential has been a buzzword for retail. When customers are used to the act of shopping to buy goods, they want to seek another dimension to make the experience better. For example, Farfetch, founded in 2008, is as an e-commerce portal for luxury boutiques. It has successfully positioned itself as the technology provider for brands and has most recently combined technology and fashion to provide a unique in-store experience. The brand places the smart mirrors in store so customers can request different sizes, alternative products or even pay without leaving the dressing room. Another example is an Adidas store in NYC. The sportswear retailer’s fifth avenue location has everything from a juice press to a set of bleachers for customers to watch games on, and also includes a print shop where guests can customize clothing. On one floor, the brand sets up a miniature track, where customers can take a run or get their stride analyzed. On another floor, a turf field with soccer balls, kettlebells, and other workout equipment are available for customers to perform some tests on Addidas gears.
Consumers can’t have these services online but go to brick-and-mortar stores to experience themselves. Going shopping is now more than just buying goods. Reinforcing good emotions in-store is the key to keep customers coming back and make purchases.