Etsy adds an AR shopping feature on iOS designed for use with wall art

Sarah Perez

Retailers like Target, Home Depot, Wayfair, IKEA, and others have embraced augmented reality to help shoppers make decisions about products they're interested in by visualizing the items in their own homes. Today, Etsy is hopping on the AR bandwagon as well, with the launch of an updated iOS app that uses augmented reality features to help consumers shopping for wall art specifically.

The company says it's seen an increase in customers shopping for home decor since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the last three months, for example, Etsy claims searches for wall decor or art have jumped 94% compared to the same time last year. Similarly, there's been a 63% increase in searches for paintings and a 54% increase in searches for prints or illustrations.

As with many home decor items, it can be difficult to imagine how wall art will look in your space, next to your own furnishings, and whether it will agree with your room's color scheme. Shoppers may also wonder if the item is the right size for their space or if they have even have a good spot to display the art.

Image Credits: Sarah Perez

Etsy's AR feature aims to help answer those questions. In the iOS app, Etsy shoppers can now select any item categorized as Paintings, Photography or Prints then tap the new augmented reality icon in the top right corner of the item image to see it appear in your own space. The company says its Art and Collectibles category offers over 5 million items, but doesn't clarify how many of those are considered wall art.

Etsy says it began the development of the AR feature in early 2019, well before the COVID crisis. Unlike a typical e-commerce site, Etsy's AR implementation is more difficult because it doesn't work from a catalog of standard sizes and imagery. Instead, Etsy's independent sellers add their own titles, tags and photos, creating a massive amount of unstructured data.

To build the feature, Etsy engineers used the Vision framework in iOS to pull out the artwork to be placed in 3D, followed by Core Image to crop the image if needed. It also implemented an on-device machine learning image classification process to detect and classify whether a listing includes a frame and needs to be cropped. To place the artwork in the user's environment, the AR feature leverages iOS' SceneKit and ARKit.

Once the AR item is loaded, you can then move your iPhone or iPad around your space to find an empty space on the wall, then tap on the AR item to place your item in the desired spot. If the item is available in multiple sizes, you'll also be able to test that, too, by zooming in on the item. The feature works best with rectangular and square artwork, notes Etsy.

Much of Etsy's business now flows through mobile as more consumers grow comfortable with shopping from their smartphones. The company reported its total revenue in Q1 2020 was $228.1 million, up 34.7% year-over-year. Gross profit reached $145.6 million, up 24.8%. These figures don't reflect the full impact of the pandemic, given the quarter ended March 31, 2020. In Q1, Etsy says 58% of its gross merchandise sales came from mobile devices.

The AR feature is still in beta on the Etsy app for iOS. An Android version is in the works, Etsy says.

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