Friday Five: Snapchat turns shoppable and Eminem in AR

Each week Zone's Letty Key handpicks the five best stories on new trends and technologies...

Granary Square

1) Zara redefines window shopping

The fashion retailer has given mannequins the boot for one week only in an interesting attempt to change our shopping habits. Replacing the slightly unnerving lifeless dolls is an AR app that allows customers to watch models sashaying about in various outfits, and then provides the option to shop the look.

While the AR models may look a bit like they're trapped in a goldfish bowl, it's actually an ingenious way of bringing the clothes to life off the rail and showcasing inspirational styling suggestions. It’s fun, light-hearted and definitely makes me want to head down to the nearest Zara to have a play.


2) Snapchat goes shoppable

Augmented reality continues to grow in relevance, with Snapchat revealing what has been dubbed 'shoppable AR' this week. Following sponsored lenses through to their logical conclusion, users will now have the option to click a link that takes them to a digital marketplace or company website where they can buy the featured product.

Working their way into private communications is the holy grail for many brands, but it's a line that has to be trodden carefully. Now that the call to action will be more overt and the brand advocation comes directly from friends, it'll be interesting to see how users respond.


3) A museum in the cloud

Google's Arts and Culture arm has teamed up with CyArk to save history. Using drones and cameras equipped with the same scanning tech used in driverless cars, CyArk is able to compose intricately detailed digital models of archaeological sites, which Google then uploads to the cloud and makes accessible to the public. 

This amazing project was borne from the recognition of the need to protect important historical sites from the threat of damage due to natural disaster or human conflict. Having digital copies will enable experts to carry out restoration work with the utmost accuracy, while 3D digitisation will give future generations an immersive experience of history through VR.


4) Reading up on conversation 

Two of Google's AI experiments were made publicly available this week in a bid to help train software as the company looks to further improve the ability of its systems to understand natural language and semantics.

The appropriately named Talk to Books uses natural language processing to search more than 100,000 books and answer user questions in a more human-like, conversational way as opposed to simply matching keywords. Semantris – arguably the more fun of the two – lets you play good old word association, all while helping to improve the technology by giving it human-grade information on word relationships.


5) Lose Yourself in live music 

It seems 'if you can't beat them, join them' was the strategy behind Eminem's AR app, which debuted during his headline set at Coachella. Instead of fighting against fans who watch live performances through the screens of their smartphones, the rapper embraced the technology by giving his show an augmented twist.

Think machetes and chainsaws flying through the air and a King Kong-size Marshall Mathers swatting helicopters and swinging his fists at skyscrapers while the real Slim Shady does his thing onstage. As an artist renowned for dramatic flair and theatrics, what could've been a pretty lame novelty actually suited Eminem's performance down to the ground.

Like what you see? Sign up here to get the Friday Five delivered directly to your inbox every week!