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I was shopping for a new pair of sunglasses and I’ve been told that some N3L stores (an Oakley spin-off) had gone high-tech with large touch displays and more, so I went to check one out (Hillsdale Mall, San Mateo CA). There were three things that you usually don’t find in optics store: a large touch display to browse products, an messaging station to send a photo of you with the glasses so that your spouse/significant other can approve your selection, and a “simulator” that lets you test wind, light conditions and UV reaction for the glasses that you have chosen.

The interactive catalog is convenient, but they don’t have real-time inventories yet, so the store might or might not have the product. At least you can check all the color variants and look at the specifications.

Snap a photo with the camera up there and send via email

The messaging station is kind of cool. The message recipient basically receives an email with an attached photo. The photo is mostly good enough to tell if that’s a good or horrible choice. It can also provide you some information (like pricing) based on an RFID tag on each product in the store. The station works with a touch interface as well.

Finally, there’s the wind/light/UV simulator: the wind (Explorer Chamber) part lets you test the glasses to see if the flow of air creeps in from the top or sides (it’s basically a fan). There’s an LCD screen that simulates different landscapes and light conditions (desert, forest, evening setting…). That shows the different properties of the lens (contrast, relief, light attenuation…). Finally, the UV chamber lets you see how dark photochromic lenses get in a few seconds.

All in all, that’s as close as you can get to seeing how the product reacts in the real world without paying for it, or going outside. The customer gets some hands-on time with the product and that increases the odds of a sale, I’m sure. Smart.

Filed in Gadgets >Shopping. Read more about glasses, retail, store and touch.

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