Retail future: virtual reality set to dominate tomorrow’s shops

A visit to the shops in the future could see us visiting stores where we can browse the shelves in virtual reality before we part with our hard-earned money.

That’s the view of one leading retail expert, Philippe Loeb, from Dassault Systèmes, which provides CAD software and design systems.

The company has developed a virtual reality shelving system that can help manufacturers see the products that they are developing on a virtual shelf.

But there is no reason the technology can’t be expanded to benefit customers as well, Loeb said.

Loeb, the vice-president of consumer package goods and retail industry, told Factor that the internet of things will change how we shop, as well as how products are presented to us.

He said: “I believe that the future of the shopping experience is still going to be physical places which are probably going to be delightfully branded, it becomes and experience more than a warehouse.

“Using virtual reality, augmented reality, connected objects and why not 3D printing as a better way to engage with the shopper.

“They will probably need less space to better show more products, which is good news for them.”

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However, it will take some time for us shoppers to adapt to new shopping experiences, Loeb said.

While it is already possible for our phones and tablets to push deals and promotions to us based on our location, he said this has to be refined in shops as nobody would want to receive tons of notifications as they walked through a shop.

He explained: “For the consumer it is going to be about probably two key elements. One is making them more comfortable on their choice. Choice can be choice for value, choice for you health, choice for somebody because sometimes the shopper is not the consumer.

“The second one – we hope – is going to be more productivity.”

Loeb said that the car manufacturers are ahead of the curve compared to supermarkets and other large shops when it comes to implementing smart technologies into retail space  – this is in part due to the wide acceptance of technology in cars.

He said: “The companies which are the most advanced are the automobile companies where more and more a part of the driving experience are devices, screens all kinds of interaction with something that is smart, and there is no way today to image a car without thinking of the internet of things part of the car.”

The change in shopping experiences has already started with car manufacturer Audi creating a digital showroom in the central of London, UK.

The compact showroom allows potential customers to view Audi’s cars in a virtual space while in the centre of London.


Featured image and image one courtesy of  Dassault Systèmes 


Facebook buy virtual reality company Oculus VR for $2bn

Social media giant Facebook is set to purchase virtual reality device maker Oculus VR – the makers of the Oculus Rift – for $2bn.

The purchase could see Facebook users dipped into the world of virtual reality when browsing through the social site, this could include virtual meetings with friends, and being able to play FarmVille in 3D.

Facebook say it wants to extend Oculus’ work, which is currently focused around gaming, to include media and entertainment education and probably everything you can think of.

The deal includes £400m in cash and the makers of the VR product will also get in on 23.1m shares of Facebook’s common stock. This is valued at $1.6bn – or $69.35 per share.

The agreement also provides for an additional $300 million earn-out in cash and stock depending on performance related targets – although it hasn’t been revealed what these are. It follows Facebook’s recent purchase of messaging service WhatsApp for $19bn.

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Writing on the Oculus website the owners, including founder Palmer Luckey (above), said: “At first glance, it might not seem obvious why Oculus is partnering with Facebook, a company focused on connecting people, investing in internet access for the world and pushing an open computing platform.

“But when you consider it more carefully, we’re culturally aligned with a focus on innovating and hiring the best and brightest; we believe communication drives new platforms; we want to contribute to a more open, connected world; and we both see virtual reality as the next step.”

The Oculus Rift headset has so far received more than 75,000 orders for its development kits and only recently announced that its second Dev kit would go on sale.

When the Rift was funded on Kickstarter it raised more than $2m dollars from almost 10,000 backers.

As with all of the purchases Facebook seems to make, including WhatsApp, and previously Instagram, Luckey said not a lot will change with the company.

“Very little changes day-to-day at Oculus, although we’ll have substantially more resources to build the right team,” he said on the company’s website.

However unlike the previous high-profile purchases, which were well established at the point of sale, Oculus is yet to ship to consumers or be available publicly.

In many ways this must increase the scope for influence from its new owners and indicates Facebook’s desire to move the technology forward.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said: “Mobile is the platform of today, and now we’re also getting ready for the platforms of tomorrow.”

He continued: “Oculus has the chance to create the most social platform ever, and change the way we work, play and communicate.”

In the last 18 months the Oculus Rift has gone from a foam product to being tested and built for by developers and the website still says it is hiring more staff – positions which will be highly chased after the recent news.

CEO of Oculus VR Brendan Iribe said: “We are excited to work with Mark and the Facebook team to deliver the very best virtual reality platform in the world.”

He continued: “We believe virtual reality will be heavily defined by social experiences that connect people in magical, new ways. It is a transformative and disruptive technology, that enables the world to experience the impossible, and it’s only just the beginning.”

The purchase is expected to close in the second quarter of 2014.

Update: This post has been updated since first publication to include further information on the deal. 


Images courtesy of Oculus VR