Walmart could have you shopping in The Matrix
While we’ve all gotten used to shopping from our living rooms, the experience lacks many of the advantages of being in-store. Some new patents from Walmart describe a VR experience that would address the shortfall by transporting a customer into a virtual, shoppable Walmart without ever leaving home.
Walmart’s patents describe a virtual showroom and fulfilment system which would allow shoppers wearing their VR headsets to move around in a 3-D virtual Walmart as if they were physically in the store, Bloomberg reported. Wearing gloves enhanced by VR sensors, customers would be able to take items off the virtual shelves, thereby triggering the items to be shipped from an automated distribution center.
This isn’t the only sign of Walmart’s ambitions in VR. Earlier this year the retailer launched a virtual furniture showroom that depicts products in a staged, virtual home. The showroom can be viewed on-screen as well as through Google and Samsung’s VR headgear.
VR, however, hasn’t quite earned mass adoption despite big technological advances and a big industry push. While retailers have begun to experience success with the use of the technology to let customers see furniture in virtual environments, high-quality headsets designed for home use remain bulky and relatively expensive.
There are safety concerns, too. Business Insider reports risks of staying in VR environments for too long, ranging from dizziness and nausea to seizures.
And the closer we come to mass adoption of virtual reality, the more that concerns once only addressed in science fiction seem less far out, such as losing touch with reality or even getting trapped in a simulation.
It remains to be seen if Walmart is truly planning on actually piloting this technology or simply patenting VR vaporware. Big tech companies have filed quite a few high-profile patents for speculative technology in recent years that haven’t come to fruition.
For instance, throughout 2016 and 2017, Amazon announced a bunch of patents for implementations of drone technology — such as drones deployed from dirigibles that would act as virtual warehouses — none of which appear to have into common use.
- Walmart Eyes Virtual-Reality Shopping System, Patent Filings Say – Bloomberg
- Walmart adds 3D virtual shopping tour for online home shopping – RetailWire
- What’s stalling the virtual reality consumer market? – RetailWire
- Macy’s CEO discusses mobile checkouts and other planned changes – RetailWire
- Here’s what happens to your body when you’ve been in virtual reality for too long – Business Insider
- Amazon considers floating warehouses – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will using a VR at-home shopping experience as Walmart lays it out in its patent ever come to fruition? What factors will determine if home shopping via VR becomes a reality?