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Traditional electronic commerce is limited, because it cannot provide direct information required about products to online consumers. The technology presented in this paper shows the project overview of how Augmented Reality (AR) can be used to help overcome the limitations and enhance e-commerce systems. Advances in network and mobile communication technologies enabled transformations of markets to the forms of E-commerce. However, current E-commerce technologies cannot provide enough information on the physical dimension, material color, and tactile impression of the products. There exists fundamental discrepancy between the internet-based cyber world and the user's real environment. By superimposing 3D virtual products on the user's real environment, Augmented Reality (AR) technologies might resolve this discrepancy. However, AR implementations often require bulky infrastructures and/or laborious installations, and hence are not easily available. In this paper, we present a marker-free, easy-to-use, and stand-alone AR system based on laser projection tracking (AR Pointer). A prototype of Augmented Ecommerce system was developed based on AR Pointer technology. Using this system, untrained users can just 'Put & feel a product' in order to find the match of the virtual model of a product in the real environment. This paper also gives the overview, goals, and objectives of the project and also the methods used to solve the problems and the interaction with clients to whom we are aiming and also the resources needed to implement this project.
Keywords: Augmented Reality, Electronic Commerce, User Centered Design.
This paper mainly deals with the overview of the use of augmented reality in e-commerce and the technologies involved in developing new trends. As we all know implementation of an e-commerce business solution involves numerous challenges on way to reaping benefits. Since the middle of 1990's the worldwide spread of Internet technologies and services enabled web-based Ecommerce services. Up to present, B2B (Business to Business) and B2C (Business to Client) E-Commerce markets have grown steadily, and more and more people are utilizing E-commerce services. Recently, in addition to Internet-based online retailing, E-Commerce has been expanded to mobile environments and living rooms by use of mobile phones and Digital TV sets. The major advantage of E-commerce is convenience in commercial transactions: a user can easily search for a product and compare it with other products in a short amount of time simply by mouse-clicking or by the use of any tactile devices in-store. However, E-Commerce has deprived users of the reality. Two-dimensional images and texts on the screen are not sufficient to provide information on the physical dimension, material colour, texture, tactile impression, and manipulation feedback of a product. Most of those who have on-line shopping experience would be persuaded that we might have unpleasant surprise of receiving products different from our expectations.
The major difference between the impressions on the images and the actual products is due to the fundamental discrepancy between the real environment and the cyber world. To resolve this difference, 3D virtual products can be provided by using web 3D tools such as Viewpoint or Cult3D. They may provide rich experience to the users , but still 3D virtual products are not in the same context as the user's real environment. To correctly resolve the discrepancy, the user's real environments which may home or office and the virtual object i.e. the product should be mingled. By superimposing 3D virtual environment on the user's real environment, Augmented Reality (AR) technologies are used to merge real and virtual environments : the size and other physical properties of the products can be expressed in the user's real environment context. Augmented reality (AR) refers to any software application that combines a verbatim representation of the world with a computer-enhanced version of it. This can occur with any of the senses, but is probably the most dramatic when focused on visual information. Because of this general visual focus, augmented reality is frequently a user's webcam overlaid with contextually relevant graphical information. Like many tools, AR's usefulness depends on how it is employed.
Goals and objectives of the project:
The main objectives and goals of our project are
? To develop a system that can combine an ecommerce proto type with the web content and AR technologies.
? To develop this technology with less cost and more effective.
? To satisfy the customers without causing any troubles to the customers.
? User privacy
Limitations of using Augmented Reality technologies:
From early 1990's Augmented reality (AR) was providing immersive feeling, which has been one of the most attractive research topics in the human computer interaction and computer graphics fields. With the advancement in hardware devices, tracking technologies, and display technologies, AR implementations are available on commercially on the computer systems. However, AR has not been successfully utilized in many practical applications, especially in E-commerce applications, because of its limitations and technical difficulties. Some of the difficulties are listed below.
? Complicated configuration
? Bulky infrastructure
? Use of Unwieldy Head-Worn Displays
? Lack of the stand alone systems
a. Bulky structure and complicated configuration:
Augmented Reality systems have been developed on the Virtual reality technologies because they both have some technical similarities. In most research and development, AR employed VR tracking and display devices that are often bulky and heavy, and require laboratory installations of sourcing devices. Vision based tracking technologies, such as ARToolKit system , often use artificial markers, and hence do not require hardware installation in the environment. However, markers need to be installed and calibrated in advance. These are some of the practical problems which may result in tracking failure.
b. Use of HWD:
In AR applications, video see-through displays are preferred to optical see-through displays for higher registration accuracy. However, video see-through displays are often unwieldy and fatiguing, hindering user's natural view of and interaction with the real environment. Thanks to recent technical advances, AR has been successfully ported on hand-held devices such as PDA's and mobile phones , demonstrating the potential of producing practical applications. Hand-held AR systems may be used in many applications including collaboration  and navigation .
c. Lack of Stand-Alone Systems:
AR integrates many advanced technologies, such as tracking, display, video, and computation technologies, because of that it has been difficult to produce a stand-alone system. For tracking systems, most of the technologies require installation of sourcing devices, on which tracking devices physically depend. Although vision based tracking systems don't require sourcing devices, they rely mostly on pre-installed markers . Inertial trackers work as a stand-alone tracking system, but the tracking information they provide cannot be used to construct geometrical relations between the real and the virtual environment, which is required for image overlays. To summarize, existing AR systems are dependent on tracking infrastructures or accessories such as markers.
To produce practical applications including E-commerce applications, portable, marker-free, easy-to-use, and stand-alone AR system is desirable. Such an AR system can be used in everyday E-Commerce life of untrained users.
Augmented Reality pointer system:
Diffractive optical elements (DOE) transform a single laser beam into various structured light patterns. These patterns, projected on a planar structure such as walls, floors, tables change their shapes as the distance and the orientation between the laser and the plane change. Through calculating the geometrical relation between the plane and the laser, the laser patterns can be used in place of markers that are widely used in vision-based tracking systems. In other words, a projected DOE pattern may play a role of a marker to provide tracking information.
i. Use of Laser Devices:
Laser pointer has been often used in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) applications in order to support interactions among computer systems, visual environments, and human. It has been used as a 2D pointing device in conferences or presentations in place of traditional pointing devices such as mice . Laser pointer has also been used as a travel aid device for blind people . In this system, a stereo camera was used to calculate the depth to the pointed surface. A red-pass filter was also used for robustness of image analysis. In collaborative AR environments, lasers have been used as an interaction device to select, move, and rotate visual elements . However, to the best of our knowledge, lasers have not been used as a real-time tracking device up to present.
ii. AR Pointer System Components:
AR Pointer system is composed of a laser with a DOE, a video camera, and an optional LCD monitor. A laser and a video camera are combined into one unit to be used as a tracking and video capture device. An optional LCD monitor can be used as a display unit, to compose a hand-held AR system together with laser-camera unit.
For registration information calculation and virtual object overlay, the laser-camera unit can be connected to any type of computing systems. Depending on the computing system, AR Pointer system could be constructed as a desktop system (Fig. 1)  or a mobile system (notebook PC / tablet PC / PDA / mobile phone). As a mobile unit, AR Pointer can be used also as a hand-held AR system as in TransVision  or NaviCam  (Fig. 2) .
AR Pointer system is distinguished from the previous AR systems, showing many advantages. Firstly, AR Pointer is a stand-alone system: there is no requirement of laborious installation process, bulky and unwieldy tracking devices, or marker installations and calibrations. Secondly, it is also highly mobile and easy-to-use as in plug and play peripheral devices. Thirdly, pointing with the laser patterns, AR Pointer system can overlay virtual products on any planar surface of user's real environment. These advantages enable AR Pointer system to be used in everyday E-commerce life of untrained users.
Fig. 1. Desktop AR Pointer system. Fig. 2. Mobile AR Pointer system
Computation and transformations:
There are three major coordinate systems in AR Pointer system. The laser coordinate system (L) is used to describe DOE pattern feature positions. The tabletop coordinate system (T) is used to represent the position and orientation of the laser patterns projected on the planar surface. Lastly, the camera coordinate system (C) is used to represent image coordinates of measurements (the laser patterns) and to overlay the virtual products in augmented views.
There are two important coordinate transformations, each of which should be calculated On-line or off-line.
? TCL: from the laser coordinate to the camera coordinate transformation
? TCT: from the tabletop coordinate to the camera coordinate transformation
Parameters of laser coordinate system are the laser DOE starting point (OL) and the DOE pattern features (Xi). Parameters of camera coordinate system are the focal point (Oc), field of view (FOV: horizontal (?h) and vertical (?v)), and image resolution ( Sx, Sy). These parameters can be calculated off-line except for the image resolution (user may specify the image resolution in run-time) .
Laser to Camera Coordinate Transformation:
The transformation between the laser coordinate system and the camera coordinate
System should be known in order to represent the rays in a common coordinate system.
We used an off-line calibration method, which is described in the following.
(1) The laser pattern was aligned perpendicular to a visual marker, and the distance between the laser and the marker was measured.
(2) The camera image of the visual marker was taken with the laser switched off.
(3) The 3D visual marker coordinates were measured.
(4) The camera pose was computed using an optimization method based on the 3D marker positions and the 2D image coordinates.
The Prototype of AR Pointer System:
Our prototype f AR Pointer system can be composed of a laser with a 5x5 grid pattern DOE, an IEEE-1394 video camera, and an LCD monitor (Fig. 3) . The laser and the camera were placed parallel and apart. As the distance between the laser and the camera increases, the tracking accuracy might be improved.
Fig. 3. Images used for laser
to camera transformation calculation with laser on Fig. 4. AR Pointer system hardware configuration
(top) and off (bottom)
Prototyping Augmented E-commerce Web Sites:
We built an Augmented E-commerce system based on our noble stand-alone AR Pointer system. Fig. 5  shows the Augmented E-commerce prototype embedded to an E-Commerce web site. The scenario is very intuitive. A user searches for a product on-line and drag-and-drops the 3D model of an interesting product onto the AR window.
AR Pointer system, then, registers the virtual object on the user pointed spot in the real environment. The user interacts with the virtual objects by moving and rotating in order to estimate the dimension and shape of the product, and to find the matches with the room environment. In other words, users can 'Put & feel a product'
Using Augmented E-commerce system, users' shopping experience can be greatly improved. Users can perceive the products in his/her office or home environment through LCD monitor without wearing unwieldy HMD's or HUD's.
Fig. 5. Augmented E-commerce
We have performed usability tests of the system. Untrained users could place the virtual products with no difficulty, and perceive the size of the bookshelf visually comparing with papers of A4 size. In another experiment, users placed a virtual toy truck beside toy robots. Users estimated the size of the truck easily by comparing with other reference objects such as a soda can and a sports watch. As a stand-alone system, users also could utilize AR pointer to place virtual products on various places (on the wall and on the desktop in our experiments).
Discussions with top management:
A key in emerging media is not only to adapt to the latest technologies, but also to anticipate where things are headed. One prediction is easy AR is moving towards what is generally called 'marker free' executions, which means the software can be much more flexible with respect to what it treats as a marker.
In this project proposal, we introduce a stand-alone, plug-and-play type AR Pointer system to be used for Augmented E-Commerce applications. The proposed AR system is easy to use and marker-free, and hence more general-purpose in applications. Instead of traditional tracking systems that require laborious installations, a small laser and a video camera are used as a tracking unit in our system.
As it's a new system and based on the same AR platform, so there is no need to go for more research on this system which can save time, cost and can be introduced directly into the market and also it's a new technology in which very few companies are trying to introduce this concept into the market. By proposing this concept it's very easy to convince the board of directors. We can target the retail clients which is a main sector in every countries economy and also more profitable market. So it's very easy to go to the clients.
The main advantage with this proposal is that, as it's a new technology which almost has most of the similarities with the previous technologies. So budget required for this will be very low compared to starting some other models. The cost of this mainly depends on the number of prototypes that we had used. The maximum cost for the implementing this technology may range up to $100,000- $500,000. No new staff is also required. We can continue with the same staff which can't effect the budget.
In this paper, we introduced a laser-projection based AR Pointer system and Augmented Ecommerce prototype that combines web contents and AR technologies. AR Pointer is a stand-alone, marker-free, and easy-to-use AR system that can be used in everyday E-Commerce life of untrained users. AR Pointer can be used to overlay virtual objects on the environments where marker installation is difficult or impossible. Owing to its non-contact and intrusive nature, AR Pointer system can be also used on the other side of a glass window or a showcase. AR Pointer system is less influenced by visual noise because the tracking is based on bright laser patterns: it is less dependent on illumination conditions and less influenced by occlusions.
Inertial trackers can be integrated with AR Pointer system to avoid tracking failures when laser patterns cannot be correctly detected. An inertial sensor can be also used as a control device to rotate the virtual objects in the augmented views. AR Pointer system can be improved by enabling tracking on non-planar surfaces. If executed in real-time, 3D shapes of the surface may be estimated for advanced interaction with the real environments.
The budget required for implementing this project is very less and also it's a new technology in the market which can bring more clients towards the company. There is no additional staff required for this project, We can go with the old staff.
Although this article has addressed several important issues in designing, there are still some important issues that must be addressed in the future development of an e-commerce system. Finally, we hope that the benefits of AR will be achieved without compromising privacy and comfort
User privacy has to be protected. The privacy issue arises when the retailers collect the consumption activities and attempt to predict the consumer's interest based on her previous shopping behaviour. It is necessary to balance the trade-off between automation and privacy to meet the needs of both retailers and consumers. Consumers may be willing to sacrifice certain degree of their privacy in return for certain perceived value, and retailers definitely should respect the privacy of their customers. A lot of on-going research works are concerned of privacy and security of online e-commerce systems. The goal of the initial development of this system, however, is to maximize the automation of the shopping experience and explore the potential and the possible applications of augmentations and diminishments in the perception of a short shelf image. Hence the privacy issue is beyond of the scope of this initial work and also should be minimised in the implementation of this concept.