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Walmart Has Seen the Future, and It’s VR Shopping

October 20, 2017

Forget the stores; just grab your headset. Retail Dive reports that the world's biggest retailer held a glitzy gala event in Los Angeles Thursday night to showcase the way it thinks people will buy its wares in the future. And that way, it seems, is virtually—because Walmart's in-house innovation team, Store No. 8, rounded up a bunch of VR, 3-D imaging, and immersive-content startups to show off as part of its quest to redefine consumerism.

The Washington Post, which also reported on the event, describes some of the applications that Walmart thinks could be a hit with its customers. How about taking a 3-D picture of yourself on a smartphone, then seeing different outfits draped over your torso in VR? Stepping into a virtual shop with matching virtual sales assistants to help you choose what to buy? Or visualizing the hazards around your home so you can make things safer for your curious child?

Sure, those aren't bad ideas. But Walmart is certainly not the first to see augmented and virtual reality as the future of shopping, and yet it's not really developed beyond a concept so far. One of biggest hurdles right now, of course, it the total lack of adoption that VR has so far achieved among the public.

The other, as Store No. 8's chief Katie Finnegan tells Retail Dive, is the tech itself. "VR is still a clunky experience from a user perspective," she says. "There's a lot of wire, the field of view is still not really great. Sometimes there is a slight delay which causes some people to describe this as a seasick feeling, but it's going away drastically."

A lot of people, and not just retailers, are hoping those headaches are eased, and soon. But even if they are, will consumers buy the idea of buying in VR?

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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