Shopping on Facebook hasn't exactly taken off. Will virtual reality (VR) help?
While its surprising $2 billion deal to acquire virtual reality (VR) headset maker Oculus provides Facebook with a gaming platform, many follow-up articles explore how such simulated in-person connections might revolutionize communications with immersive 3D social experiences.
On a conference call, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, said VR could be the next big computing platform after mobile.
"After games, we're going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences," said Mr. Zuckerberg. "Imagine enjoying a court-side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world, consulting with a doctor face to face, or going shopping in a virtual store where you can touch and explore the products you're interested in, just by putting on goggles in your own home. This is really a new social platform."
VR headsets feature motion sensors that track the movement of a person's head. Shifting from one side to the other creates the illusion that the wearer has an active presence in a digital world.
"If you can see somebody else, and your brain believes they're right in front of you, you get goosebumps," Brendan Iribe, CEO of Oculus VR told The New York Times. "You start to realize how big this could be."
Critics of the deal don't believe VR, which has been hyped for decades, holds any meaningful application beyond gaming. It also causes motion sickness for some, something Oculus is working to solve. Facebook itself describes the technology's applications beyond gaming as "nascent."
But with component prices coming down and as technologies continually advance, some see the deal as a sign that VR may be ready to break out in the years ahead.
At retail, Topshop recently used VR to transport in-store shoppers to London's Fashion Week. But the technology appears to hold more potential for e-commerce.
"Web-based retailer Thread.com could add a virtual clothes rack with full-size, 3D replicas of their suggestions in order to complete their online personal stylist experience," Phillip Dyte, paid social media manager at iProspect, told the Retail Gazette. "Elsewhere, furniture or automotive retailers could use it to show off scale replicas of their products — just like stepping inside the sales brochure."
Not surprisingly, Facebook shared a more transformative view beyond commerce, seeing VR potentially emerging as the next social and communications platform. Wrote Mr. Zuckerberg in a blog post: "One day, we believe this kind of immersive, augmented reality will become a part of daily life for billions of people."
How would you rate the potential for virtual reality to transform shopping?