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TechCrunch: Wanna Kicks, a new augmented reality app from Wannaby, allows you to "try on" your next pair of kicks digitally

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    Wannaby, a startup out of Belarus that is building “AR commerce” experiences, has launched a beta of its latest app, which aims to make it easier to find the perfect sneakers.

    Dubbed “Wanna Kicks,” the iOS app uses augmented reality to let you “try on” various pairs of sneakers. You simply choose a pair of kicks from the list of 3D models, point your camera at your feet and — bingo — you’re now virtually wearing your chosen footwear.

    The effect is pretty instant and tracks reasonably well as you move and rotate your feet or change camera angle. You can even try walking and the AR app will follow your footsteps. It doesn’t work quite as well standing in front of a mirror, which would be more useful, but that is something Wanna Kicks’ makers say they are working on.

    Ultimately, however, Wannaby believes its technology can help both customers and retailers. The premise is simple: The better idea you have of how a pair of sneakers will look when you’re actually wearing them, the more likely you are to make the right purchase and the less likely you are to return an item. Online retailers spend a lot of their margins trying to get customers to convert, and arguably even more servicing returns.

    “Our mission is to break online shopping barriers,” Wannaby CEO and ex-Googler Sergey Arkhangelskiy tells me. “We believe that AR try-on can help customers to shop online and will wash away the difference between online and offline shopping. We see two major problems in the shoe market. Online conversions are quite low, and returns are quite high, in comparison to traditional ‘brick-and-mortar’ shopping. The ability to try sneakers with your phone before buying online should shift conversions, engagement and returns.”

    Arkhangelskiy argues that AR is also a great marketing tool. Unsurprisingly, Wanna Kicks lets you save a photo of your feed clad in new virtual sneakers, which you can then share on social media. Video sharing is in the pipeline, too.

    “Many shoe brands are presenting their new releases both online and offline,” he says. “Lots of customers are eager to know more about new sneaker releases, and AR is a great new way for people to experience sneakers that are new to the market or are about to get to the market. Essentially, this is the main idea behind Wanna Kicks: allowing users to choose and decide whether they like a shoe or not without visiting a physical store.”

    Under the hood, Wannaby says it uses sophisticated “3D geometry algorithms” together with neural networks to identify the position of the shoe in space. It’s these algorithms that the startup says are its secret sauce and the company’s main innovation. To onboard sneakers into the app, Wannaby utilises its own studio to create bespoke 3D models.

    “We’ve built Wanna Kicks for Gen Z and millennials who are interested in buying sneakers and eager to know whether they will fit their style or not,” adds Arkhangelskiy. “The AR and AI community will love our launch as well — we’ve accomplished a really difficult task in computer vision and rendering.”

    Meanwhile, Wannaby is backed by Bulba Ventures and Haxus. The startup has raised $2 million in seed funding to date.


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