Walmart Applies for Patents for a Virtual Reality Shopping
Running errands in Walmart is not always a smooth experience and the giant retailer is exploring ways of simplifying this activity through virtual reality. According to documents filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the company is planning to build a virtual showroom where customers can shop for items from the comfort of their rooms.
A Virtual Showroom
The company is applying for two patents for its new virtual reality showroom as well as fulfillment system which will connect headset-wearing shoppers with sensor-packaged gloves to a 3D representation of a Walmart store. Once the customer has been plugged into the virtual reality, they can move around the digital isles of the Walmart store and grab the items that they wish to purchase. The items that they pick will be packaged and queued for home delivery from Walmart’s fully-automated distribution center.
Walmart’s virtual reality shopping technology will be targeting shoppers would who want to have a realistic experience of the product before they make a purchase from the comfort of their homes. If you dread taking a tour to any of the Walmart supercenters, you will be able to simply put on the headsets and the special multi-sensor gloves and get a real-life feel of the products that you wish to purchase.
Walmart has been pushing strongly into the virtual reality realm in the recent months and the technology could revolutionize traditional retail where brick-and-mortar merchants grapple with the high labor and store upkeep costs. It started with the acquisition of the VR startup Spatialand which develops software tools for building VR experiences. Initially, it wasn’t apparent what the company was planning to do with the virtual reality startup. With the rollout of the virtual showroom experience, its VR strategy is now becoming clearer.
Spatialand was acquired under Walmart’s Store No 8 innovation hub, which is the retailer’s in-house incubator. Walmart is making aggressive moves in the digital space but it is not the only major retailer to embrace emerging digital technologies. Amazon is also set to launch virtual reality shopping with its Amazon AR View while Alibaba is already offering its customers virtual reality shopping. In a surprising move, the giant online retailer is also setting up brick-and-mortar presence at a time when retailers are trying to break new frontiers in digital retail. Amazon’s brick-and-mortar footprint is already growing fast and has already surpassed Costco in presences across the US. Amazon isn’t the only online retailer that is reclining to the traditional distribution channels of physical stores. Tech giant Google is also planning to roll out a flagship store in Chicago.
In the past, Walmart digital strategy involved using virtual reality mainly in its internal business such as in making in conference calls. Other internal applications have since included using virtual reality in preparing its staff for the Black Friday shopping rush.
The new virtual showroom shows Walmart’s shift in focus towards applications that are more external and more shopper-focused. Apart from this, the company has also filed other virtual reality patents with FCC including one that will be for an unattended retail storefront in VR that will provide its shoppers a virtual access to its items via a portal that is installed in their homes.