Furniture and kitchenware giant Williams-Sonoma, Inc. (WSI) is acquiring augmented reality (AR) startup Outward in an all-cash deal for $112 million. The furniture brand, which operates stores including Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, West Elm and others, will be using the startup’s 3-D imaging tech to “enhance and extend its high-touch customer service platform,” the company says. Outward, founded in 2012, works similarly to many other furniture visualization startups, capturing 3-D information about partner products then allowing consumers the ability to see exactly what the product they want looks like, changing things like the object’s color or pattern while viewing from every angle. The startup has experimented heavily with things like AR and virtual reality visualization.
Total Retail's Take: Furniture is a product category that's a natural application for AR, and Williams-Sonoma is looking to bring the technology into wider use among its customers. The acquisition of Outward will help the home goods retailer bring the startup's proprietary technology a larger market, with the ultimate goal of it helping more shoppers to buy its furniture. Earlier this year, Williams-Sonoma debuted an AR app for its Pottery Barn and PBteen brands that features 3-D room design and product visualization tools. Expect that technology to roll out to other WSI brands with Outward now in the fold.