Canadians Could Soon Browse Cannabis with Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality
Yarygin/iStock

I’m not going to lie: When a press release came across my desk from NexTech AR Solutions, it sounded like a cannabis buzz-word salad: Immersive AR technology, rich 3D 360-degree photography, next-generation experience, and of course, cannabis.

However, when it came down to it, the publicly-traded company might truly have something worth checking out.

Termed “AR Dispensary,” the company’s latest offering gives consumers the ability to view 3D models of dried flower and other cannabis products on their desktop or mobile web browser.

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The company will offer the service to legal dispensaries and cannabis-related eCommerce stores across North America, and the company says they are in talks with at least one chain of stores that hopes to sell cannabis across Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Here’s how it would work: After being engaged by the dispensary or eCommerce site, NexTech creates 3D photographic models of every cannabis product the store offers. These 3D models would integrate into the store’s website, allowing visitors to go beyond the static images when digital window-shopping before running out of their home to make a purchasing decision. If the store conducts online sales of the cannabis, the system can link the models to the purchase page for each respective product.

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The models look cool on desktop web browsers, but where the solution truly comes to life is on the mobile phone. If a user enables their mobile phone browser to access their camera, the 3D models of buds and other cannabis products offered by the dispensary are displayed against the backdrop of whatever room you’re in. You can zoom into the bud, twirl it around, and take a snap of the bud—at any angle you please – set amongst the backdrop of your living room.

To be fair, the tech we saw on the demo provided by the company wasn’t pixel perfect. If you zoom in significantly to try to see the trichomes, it does become pixelated: Don’t expect to see the same level of detail as you may be accustomed to in your favourite macro photography shots of buds—the tech’s just not there yet.

The software could be particularly valuable for licensed online cannabis sellers that do not have their own physical spaces, such as the Ontario Cannabis Store’s online website. For eCommerce platforms like them, it may be the next best thing to being able to put an actual bud in a potential customer’s hand.

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NexTech is not the first company to leverage augmented reality. Attendees of the annual Lift Expos in Toronto and Vancouver may remember the interactive AR experience set up by cannabis producer CannTrust and digital agency Patio Interactive: a station of VR headsets that allowed attendees to immerse themselves in a 360-degree, educational tour of one of the producer’s cultivation facility.

Will retailers adopt NexTech’s AR Dispensary technology? Or will it go the way of the Tamagotchi and Pet Rock? Regardless, we’re excited for the future convergence of cannabis and tech, and NexTech may just be able to capitalize on that.