It looks as if Walmart and Amazon, the world’s largest retailers, are looking into a virtual reality shopping experience. Whether the marketplace for these retailers will be available on existing consumer virtual reality brands or if these companies want to introduce their own headsets looks to be unconfirmed. Walmart however has filed for two patents that describes a system where users would wear a VR headset and ‘sensory gloves’, similar to a remote control for the HTC Vive, where they would be shown a virtual marketplace.
Walmart Looking Towards Virtual Reality
According to CBinsights, Walmart has filed two patents pertaining to virtual reality shopping. Users will be able to walk through this marketplace and would be able to interact with products on display. Almost like navigating yourself through Google Maps, it would be a 3D environment and you would be able to interact with objects by pointing your ‘sensory gloves at them’. The objects have an icon above them that would give the product details and the option to add items to your cart.
The concept of going to the store, purchasing what you need and then leaving is an all too familiar ritual almost every American follows. What Walmart and Amazon are trying to do here is to bring the store to you. Currently, Walmart is focusing on shopping for furniture and room designs, “Buy the Look” as they call it. Walmart has also given a simulation of the experience on their website that shows a furniture and decorations, meant for dorm room set up and new apartments.
Amazon and Virtual Reality Shopping
Amazon too looks to be building on the idea of integrating virtual reality as part of the shopping experience and has already displayed it in malls for their Prime Day Shopping Events. However, instead of just having images to build a 3D world, Amazon went to the next level and built an entire elaborate virtual world, complete with graphics, much like a video game. Shoppers were given Oculus Rift headsets to enter the Amazon world.
Shoppers were taken to the event via hot air balloon (in the VR world). Shoppers oversee the kiosks and shopping outlets they’d be purchasing from until the balloon lands in a peaceful park. You enter a virtual mall and the mall has shops separated by category. There’s Bath & Beauty, Kitchen & Dining, and Prime Video. All of these rooms had their own themes and sense of physical space.
In these ‘shops’, customers could interact with 3D model versions of products, completely identical to the real thing and with the Oculus Rift’s remote, could interact with these products. For example, if it were a fridge you were looking at, you could open its doors, peer inside and everything would be animated. It would seem like you’re interacting with an actual fridge. Details about products would pop up beside it if you interacted with one.
For the clothes shopping, several clothes would be displayed and a stage was displayed in the middle. If you picked a clothing item, a model would appear, posing and showing off the clothing item. Shoppers described the event to be nothing like they’d ever seen before
Amazon Augmented Reality at Home
Though the virtual reality shopping was limited to the Prime Day Event, it just goes to show what Amazon is capable of and what the possibilities the virtual world is capable of. Users at home though can have a little slice of what Amazon has in ‘store’ as far as mass virtual reality accessibility goes.
Right now, you can download the Amazon app try their AR view experience. If you’re ever curious as to how an appliance or decoration would look like in your house, you can simply take your phone and, open the Amazon app and for a particular product, select the “AR view” option. This will open your camera and with it, a size rendered 3D model of the product. It will be as if the product is lying on your desk or is a part of your home if you look through your camera. The product will be of the correct size as well.
The point of AR is to view products as realistically as possible before you buy them. This means buying furniture or decorations has become the most convenient and intuitive it has ever been. No longer will you have to deal with returning products because you didn’t enjoy how they looked in your living space. Amazon promises to add newer products to the AR view every day.
What Amazon and Walmart Aim to Achieve with Virtual Reality
Accessibility. Plain and simple. If there’s any front that innovation can be had and where their market can be expanded, these companies will try it out. It gives the customer an even bigger opportunity to use their services, a bigger platform to access their services from. Virtual reality might not seem like a huge market and surely it isn’t, but what’s to say it won’t be huge in a year or two. If shopping in virtual reality becomes the new norm, you can be sure Amazon and Walmart will have a huge part in shaping the experience.
Virtual reality shopping could provide a viable solution to people who just don’t have time to go out and hit the stores anymore. People who work 9-5 and spend the rest of the time with family or at another job. Virtual reality shopping gives them the opportunity to shop from their home and to make an activity out of it.
People who suffer from social anxiety and dread going clothes shopping or grocery shopping can simulate doing the activities from home and benefit from retail therapy from their own home. Plus, it gives online shopping a new feature. Before, when you had to sort through several different tabs, you can now actually physically navigate within an online shop. It makes shopping much simpler and straightforward, plus you don’t have to carry anything back or drive to and from outlets. Imagine being at the mall one second and then at home the other. Virtual reality shopping still needs some testing but it could easily be commonplace in a few years.
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