Interesting article from respected science site Phys.org exploring the various ways in which virtual reality might be expected to transform the shopping experience. One of the first areas of the retail industry that will take advantage of VR is home improvement. Customers could see virtual re-designs of their homes before making their choice. This would be ideal for clients visiting a home improvement store, and already one such leading company – Lowes – has installed virtual reality headsets for that purpose in 19 of their outlets across the USA. Later, with the release of mixed reality devices such as the HoloLens, customers could walk around their own kitchens visualizing and selecting possible improvements and re-designs offered by the company.
In 19 stores around the country the home improvement chain has installed a space that enables shoppers to see a 3-D mock-up of their renovation plans.
Called the Holoroom, the simulated space can be personalized with individual room sizes, equipment, colors and finishings. Shoppers can give Lowe’s the dimensions of a room and fill it from a selection of thousands of Lowe’s products.
Then they slip on an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset to look at how all the elements play together (an employee can switch out parts of the room while the customer is still looking). The design is also viewable at home on YouTube 360 with a Google Cardboard viewer, which Lowe’s gives out free through on-site vending machines.
Kyle Nel, executive director of Lowe’s Innovation Labs, said the Holoroom helps nudge people over the biggest hurdle when it comes to a room refresh: imagining what those changes will look like in real life.
“If you think about the way people conceptualize remodels now, it’s really abstract,” Nel said. “They go and get a little swatch here and one there and lay it on a table.”
But with virtual reality, people can get a much more “holistic” and immersive view of how a slab of marble or different paint color can change an entire room – drastically increasing the likelihood that they will go with Lowe’s for their project, Nel said.
Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2016-04-retail-virtual-reality-fun.html#jCp
1/ Clothing – shoppers will be able ‘try on clothes’ from the comfort of their armchairs using personalized avatars based upon accurate 3D scans of their own bodies. And this isn’t just a matter of convenience – trying on clothes in virtual reality has the potential to go beyond bricks and mortar fitting rooms and mirrors. For example, in VR you could see how you look in that bikini lying on the sandy beach. Consumers could even design their own clothes in the virtual world, try them on, and have them made using 3D printers. Eventually, the entire process could be done in the home.
2/ Tourism – the potential of VR to be used by the tourism industry is obvious. Potential customers could sample some of the places that they are thinking of visiting. They could ‘walk around’ cities, experience a beach sunset, visit a museum, all in VR before they have left their home. These VR experiences could be used to promote tourism to a place, or even to sell a virtual ‘visit’ – for example, a museum could put its exhibits on display in a virtual world version of itself and charge for entry. Even the journey itself could be promoted, and rival airlines, for example, could showcase how comfortable their inflight experiences are. In fact, Virgin Atlantic Airways has already started doing this. Even bricks and mortar stores associated with the travel industry could benefit, through the promotion of activities such as hiking and camping, and then selling their customers the necessary products such as boots and tents.
3/ Real Estate – prospective house buyers could view and walk around their potential new homes before visiting them in person. They could walk inside rooms that have been fitted with the furniture chosen by the buyer. They could even view property that is still on the drawing board, before it has even been built. Real estate agents are already installing VR headsets in their offices and showrooms.
4/ Consumer Electronic Displays – Virtual (and augmented) reality may have a disruptive effect upon manufacturers of televisions and other electronic screen displays. VR headsets and augmented/mixed reality glasses, such as the HoloLens, may render televisions, monitors, and even mobile phones obsolete. Netflix have already launched a VR application that allows wears of headsets such as the Oculus Rift or the Gear VR to watch films and TV shows on a television screen inside a virtual room. Augmented reality glasses, meanwhile, could project massive ‘TV screens’ onto your blank living room wall, at the fraction of a cost of a real high end TV set. With a device like the HoloLens, the wearer could read his e-mail on the palm of his hand or watch live football on his dining room table in 3D. With augmented (or ‘mixed reality’) glasses, essentially the whole world becomes a screen. Companies such as Magic Leap are even working on technology that would allow light to be projected into the eyes of the viewer directly, leaving even the screens of the glasses themselves unnecessary.
Retail shopping is one of the four industries tipped by Forbes magazine to be transformed by virtual reality. Online retail sales in the USA and Europe alone are expected to reach over half a trillion dollars in 2017. The rise of e-commerce over the last two decades has been nothing short of astonishing, a truly disruptive transformation of the retail industry that has forced many famous bricks and mortar names, including booksellers such as Borders, to close high street stores or even into liquidation.
But what further transformations will ensue if virtual reality allows online retailers to provide some of the elements of the bricks and mortar model? Shopping in vr will allow customers to enjoy the best of online shopping AND the in-store experience, all from the comfort of an armchair!
When we shop online, we use abstractions—menus and hierarchies—that are unique to e-commerce and don’t mirror the in-store experience. But VR can reproduce brick-and-mortar shopping realistically, and enhance it by overlaying information about pricing and product details, Gownder said.
There are clear early use cases for VR in retail. The technology will enable customers to view themselves “wearing” new clothes to see how the outfits look and fit, without actually having to try on the clothes in a dressing room.
Eventually, as VR comes into the home, consumers will be able to try on clothes, pick out furniture, and buy wall art without leaving the house, Mainelli said.
An independent company has produced a video demonstrating how shopping in vr might look wearing the Facebook owned virtual reality headset, the Oculus Rift.
A number of leading Real Estate Agents are already planning to install virtual reality headsets in their offices so that prospective clients can view, and even walk around their possible new homes, before visiting the actual properties. And the possibilities for Real Estate and VR don’t end there – potential buyers could also view apartments and houses before they have even been built.
I’d come to Halstead’s Manhattan headquarters to test the virtual reality technology that the company is developing. I’d already perused a 400-square-foot West Village resale using a Samsung Gear headset.
But the Halstead team was most excited about a four-story building in Astoria, Queens, that did not yet exist. Halstead had hired a company called Virtual Xperience to create a virtual rendering based on the architectural plans. The idea was to have potential buyers wear an Oculus Rift headset and “walk” around the building. The more realistic the experience, the more likely a client might be willing to pay the asking price of nearly $1.98 million for the building before construction crews even broke ground — at least that was the hope.
A Samsung Gear headset can be used to “walk” around an apartment and check out its view without ever having to set foot inside.
“We sell based on emotion and attaching that emotion to a vision,” said Matthew J. Leone, the senior vice president of digital marketing for Terra Holdings, the parent company of Halstead. “Imagine a buyer walking out onto the terrace and thinking: ‘If I bought this home and was having breakfast here, this is exactly what I’d see.’ That’s incredible. For a salesman, it’s a dream come true.”