What’s the Future of 3D Imagery? Sam Sesti of ONU Weighs In

In preparation for our upcoming webinar on the relationship between PIM and DAM, we spoke to Sam Sesti, President of inRiver partner ONU. He gave us an interesting glance into the future of 3D and how you can use it for creating richer customer experiences.

In preparation for our upcoming webinar on the relationship between PIM and DAM, we spoke to Sam Sesti, President of inRiver partner ONU. He gave us an interesting glance into the future of 3D and how you can use it for creating richer customer experiences.

Q: What was the genesis for starting ONU?

Sesti: I was working with a digital marketing company that was doing some very experiential things with marketing. They were way ahead of the curve with creating mobile and virtual reality applications for organizations like the U.S. Navy, Chevrolet, OnStar, and Coca-Cola®. However, at that time, we would create the experience, it would get used just one time, and then be discontinued. Every time we would have to create something, we would get a CAD file—typically from a manufacturer—and try to figure out how to best leverage or optimize it for use in 3D for mobile, the web, and virtual reality applications.

When we started to research what could be used for an asset creation pipeline, we realized that there wasn’t anything out there. So, we developed a 3D visualization platform to help companies to streamline and publish 3D imagery out to different endpoints, such as mobile, the web, and virtual reality.

Q: Where are we in the adoption lifecycle of 3D imaging in e-commerce?

Sesti: The scales are starting to tip, such that there is a higher concentration on real-time rendering of 3D imagery. For about a decade, computer graphics companies used still 3D images of a product. Most people can’t tell the difference between that and a photo. Then came 3D video, which was more educational and engaging, but still had a beginning and an end, with no real interaction with the user.

In contrast, what we have the capability to do now is provide a 3D experience that the user can interact with. They can change the experience to what they want to see. Real-time rendering is starting to catch hold, especially on the web as HTML5 is more widely adopted, browsers are more accommodating, and 3D is more widely accepted. We were the first to do this four years ago, but now, every day, more companies are providing 3D interactive experiences, primarily for customization, personalization, and configuration for products. It results in an experience that is much more engaging and educational.

Q: How does the use of 3D images increase conversion rates?

Sesti: Just as everybody is now an online shopper, every company is putting their products online. Shoppers are seeking all the information they can get on a product when looking to buy it, whether it be size, shape, color, or other details. But just as a a picture speaks a thousand words, they would rather not read through text or rely on a few photos that were chosen by the vendor. If the shopper can see product animations and view different angles, or flip, turn, rotate and zoom in on the product, they are more likely to buy. A study by Adobe that ONU cites in a recent blog post indicates that e-commerce vendors have to have at least 360-degree product imagery. Another study by Gallup showed that if consumers don’t get what they want they can become disengaged or even antagonistic towards the brand.

There are very high expectations out there. 3D imagery is a great way to differentiate and drive conversions.

Q: In which industries is using 3D imagery more important?

Sesti: Products that are more complicated, such as small household appliances, automotive, machinery, and consumer electronics can all benefit from these applications. In addition, 3D is common in sporting goods and footwear, where they release more new products and have shorter product cycles with increasing innovation. It is useful anywhere people are thinking of different ways to present new products or for anything that is detailed, complex, and hard to explain.

Customization is becoming a huge selling point for companies. For example, Nike made a big splash when they began enabling customers to make their own custom shoe. Many companies are following suit. That is probably the biggest use case for 3D—customization applications.

We also see a lot of product tours that provide a level of education about the product that can’t be provided otherwise. A tour may show an animated video of different features and functions of the product, but also allow the user to explore on their own. In addition, virtual reality is great for recreating experiences that are difficult, risky, or hard to reach in real life.

Q: What are the challenges for companies in terms of storing and managing 3D imagery files and assets?

Sesti: That is where ONU can help the most. CAD files are heavy, dense files, and are typically not in a format that is accessible for e-commerce, or suitable for the web. ONU’s proprietary algorithms can optimize and convert those files into something that is ready for mobile and web endpoints. Customers can store and manage assets in our cloud-based platform and then can use those same assets on a mobile app, for example, for use by their sales teams.

Your sales team may need a mobile app, marketing may need to put a 3D application on the web, the training department may want a virtual reality experience, and the service department may need augmented reality to do their job. In the past, the organization would have an internal dept or outside agency create experiences for them. They would send their CAD files off to different agencies and pay for the rendering of each version. They would receive the mobile app, web site, AR/VR experience, but not receive the assets back! Now they can use our platform, get their files in the right format, and agencies can download and upload them to streamline the process.

Q: What is the role of imagery in developing a context for each product and improving customer experience?

Sesti: 3D imagery is a perfect fit for this application. For example, the technology could be used for choosing a team uniform. As you choose each component, you could see how each piece jives with the other pieces. You can put everything together in 3D space. There could be millions of combinations of different colors, facemasks, chinstraps, and the like. If you need images for all of those combinations, it would be very time-consuming. With 3D assets you can do that on the fly. You can make changes real-time and it saves alot of effort and alot of pain. It makes life alot easier for companies with large databases and many product options.

In addition, you can place products into different environments, depending on what you are planning to do with it. You can test how the product operates in that context.

Once you have these assets, the possibilities become endless.

Q: What do you see for the future of product imagery?

Sesti: Everything will become somewhat virtual. We tell manufacturers, ’All sales will be this way in the future—augmented and virtual reality, online, and retail space. People will buy products this way. You have your CAD files already, so the sooner you can get your products into a 3D aspect the better.’

We will be able to do even more in sales and marketing once the form factor is smaller and 3D will render better on smartphones.

We are not that far away from having eyewear that can provide information on-the-fly in stores and airports. Companies will augment reality with actual with objects that don’t exist in front of you and will push information on top of those objects. It will be fun.

Want to learn more? Watch our webinar: DAM! I thought I had a PIM!

Kathryn Zwack, Senior Content Marketing Manager, inRiver

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