Until recently, using the internet has been a mostly two-dimensional experience. Users are limited to stock photos and succinct product descriptions with very little else to influence their shopping decisions. This presents a unique problem for dispensaries and other cannabis businesses when so much of their product appeal depends on scent, sight, even feel. So when Shopify officially launched their AR experience for e-commerce last September, cannabis was one industry that already had their sights set on the change.
Augmented reality (AR) is becoming a very real way for consumers everywhere to explore, shop for, and learn about cannabis all at once. Consider the filters on Snapchat and Instagram as examples of AR experiences on a small scale. For the cannabis industry, these interactive online experiences are expanding. Customers can now use their phones to project budtenders—even the buds themselves—directly into their living rooms and get up close and personal with cannabis without ever stepping foot in a dispensary.
The augmented reality of the cannabis industry
Augmented reality makes cannabis more accessible to everyone. In Canada, a version of this accessibility comes in the form of a cannabis kiosk powered on AR technology. Cannvas MedTech Inc. (CSE:MTEC) (OTCPK:CANVF) teamed up with NexTech AR Solutions (OTC:NEXCF) in January to create an AR-based cannabis learning program. This program will eventually be implemented into their network of learning kiosks throughout the provinces.
The kiosks themselves provide free, interactive educational services to any consumer interested in learning more about cannabis. And with the addition of NexTech’s AR technology, Cannvas intends to refine these services to extend the length of the interaction and make it much more memorable. Both companies are planning to examine key consumer behavior patterns that could affect that kind of memorable experience.
“It has been proven that companies who personalize the user experience through AR enjoy an improvement in their customer relations and overall profitability,” said Steve Loutskou, COO of Cannvas MedTech, in the company’s January press release. “Our goal through this partnership with NexTech is to take our Cannvas Kiosk to the next level and ensure users receive accurate and evidence-based cannabis information customized to their needs and location.”
AR-based educational tools are not limited to Canada, either. NexTech recently launched an AR dispensary experience for the legal cannabis industry on their ARitize app. For dispensary owners, it is a few lines of code that they can embed into their products to create unique AR experiences. And for users, these AR experiences mimic that of a real shopping or educational experience.
The app is functional on desktop computers through the company’s website. But on mobile, the app prompts users to place the product on a surface, any tabletop or an uncluttered spot of carpet will work. Then, through the phone, users can judge the size of a vape pen with the palm of their hand or zoom in on the trichomes on a bud of Berry White. Budtenders are also available to explain products, and there are investor’s presentations and interviews users can interact with to answer other kinds of cannabis questions.
“It’s a bridge that brings people into cannabis,” NexTech COO Reuben Tozman explained to PotNetwork News during a demo of the app. “It uses a virtual hologram to educate you with a product. It unpacks something for your users where you can open it, manipulate it—the control is all in the user’s hand.”
Making cannabis more accessible is one thing, but keeping control in the users’ hands is the foundation on which AR is built. Using an app reduces the pressure many feel in a typical sales environment, and with AR, consumers can go that extra level to engage, ask questions, and educate themselves.
So what’s next for cannabis and AR technology?
For Tozman and the team at NexTech, they see this as a perfect opportunity to marry the fastest growing tech with the fastest growing industry. The company is working on artificial intelligence that uses emotion to help users navigate and shop online. According to Tozman, the AI can tell when people smile and will provide suggestions based on their reactions of happiness, interest, or boredom.
“We want to optimize the ecom workflow in cannabis with technology like that,” Tozman told PotNetwork.
The reality of AR and cannabis is that it is not limited solely to dispensaries and online shopping. There are opportunities blooming in growing technologies that could bring users directly into greenhouses and extraction facilities, giving them a front row seat to every step of the cultivation process. NexTech has their finger on the pulse, but there is no limit yet as to where AR could take this industry.
See the interview and demo below.