What Will Ecommerce Look Like 10 years from Now When Virtual Reality Becomes Common?

Catherine Strohanova
Catherine Strohanova
Business Development Manager

Most retailers are in the continuous search of convenient tools that would be able to help them increase important marketing metrics such as customer retention, brand awareness, and the number of sales.

It is where modern technologies can come in useful. And the future of virtual reality (VR) will be tightly connected to both online and offline retail.

Many ecommerce giants like eBay, IKEA, and Amazon already turn towards virtual reality. Combining the capabilities of this immersive technology with advantages of bricks-and-mortar stores, retailers strive to improve customer shopping experience.

At the same time, virtual reality vendors like Google and Apple have been developing new and more powerful devices that can bring 3D graphics to a remarkable new level.

future of virtual reality

What Google’s working on

To improve the effect of presence with their VR headsets, vendors use tethered position-tracking sensors for controllers.

Six degrees of freedom (6DOF) controller tracking enables users to better interact with three-dimensional models. It’s because 6DOF consist of such movement parameters that allow more accurate determination of user’s movements.

According to RoadtoVR, Google has been developing a cheap technology based on artificial intelligence that adds 6DOF controllers to a standalone headset.

Their technology uses the same two fisheye cameras as in standalone VR headsets that track the position of the user’s hands and arms.

When it comes to software, Google’s solution uses neural network able to learn over time to track user’s movements more accurately.

To train the system, Google used more than 547,000 stereo image pairs and involved tens of users.

Google’s technology can track the controller’s position within a 1.32-inch error rate. It currently runs at 30 frames per second (FPS) on a single mobile CPU core. Furthermore, the system doesn’t require objects to glow to determine their position correctly.

Therefore, when it comes to the close future of virtual reality, our hand and arm movements will no longer look like chaotic waving in order to make virtual objects move. VR hardware will be able to track our actions accurately with nearly zero error rate.

vr ecommerce shopping experience

One of the main problems with existing VR head-mounted devices is that they provide a relatively poor quality of the resolution. Thus, we still feel like being in a cartoon when experiencing virtual reality.

According to CNET, Apple is working on a new VR headset that supports both virtual and augmented reality. The major characteristics of this device are that it promises to be completely wireless and have a resolution of 8K per eye. CNET claims the headset will appear in 2020.

In addition, the device has external cameras that allow for overlaying 3D objects in the same way it happens in Microsoft Hololens. The head-mounted display (HMD) will be equipped with smart glasses containing a motion tracking sensor and processor in a separate housing wirelessly connected to the HMD.

The project has the name T288 and the closest device to the Apple’s one is wireless HTC Vive Pro with its image resolution of 1480×1440 pixels per eye compared to 7680×4320 in T288.

However, it’s not just about screen resolution. It’s about the quality and realism of virtual reality. That’s how we feel in virtual environments. With such a large resolution, we will experience a real effect of presence instead of watching a 3D cartoon.

What Amazon’s working on

AmazonSumerian vr

Amazon has been turned from an online bookstore into a giant vendor of modern technologies. Thus, it couldn’t ignore rising both virtual and augmented reality.

The retailer created Sumerian, an all-in-one development platform for VR and AR apps. The platform focuses on mobile devices and virtual reality head-mounted displays as well as a web browser.

Based on open web standards, Amazon’s platform supports both Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore. It makes Sumerian a cross-platform solution that enables developers to build applications for a wide range of different devices.

When it comes to features, Amazon’s platform has a drag-and-drop app editor, 3D object library, and Visual State Machine for automated scripting scenes.

What Apple’s working on

One of the main problems with existing VR head-mounted devices is that they provide a relatively poor quality of the resolution. Thus, we still feel like being in a cartoon when experiencing virtual reality.

According to CNET, Apple is working on a new VR headset that supports both virtual and augmented reality. The major characteristics of this device are that it promises to be completely wireless and have a resolution of 8K per eye. CNET claims the headset will appear in 2020.

In addition, the device has external cameras that allow for overlaying 3D objects in the same way it happens in Microsoft Hololens. The head-mounted display (HMD) will be equipped with VR smart glasses containing a motion tracking sensor and processor in a separate housing wirelessly connected to the HMD.

The project has the name T288 and the closest device to Apple’s one is wireless HTC Vive Pro with its image resolution of 1480×1440 pixels per eye compared to 7680×4320 in T288.

However, it’s not just about screen resolution. It’s about the quality and realism of virtual reality. That’s how we feel in virtual environments. With such a large resolution, we will experience a real effect of presence instead of watching a 3D cartoon.

What Shopify’s working on

Shopify, a Canada-based ecommerce platform, has turned towards immersive technologies to help customers make their shopping decisions by showing them available options.

Consumers make shopping decisions relying on the information they find or receive. When it comes to ecommerce, people can choose options by examining static pictures, reading item descriptions, or watching video reviews.

However, personal interaction, in reality, provides customers with a better understanding of item characteristics than the types of data mentioned above.

Immersive technologies can help ecommerce business owners provide their customers with a more realistic shopping experience.

Shopify uses Unreal Engine 4 to provide its consumers with both AR and VR features. Their Thread Studio enables users to see what they’d look like when they take a special T-shirt on. The solution uses motion controls and a VR head-mounted display to overlay a virtual mannequin with a 3D T-shirt model.

Therefore, consumers will now be able to virtually try clothes without the need for visiting a real store and changing items. Virtual reality obviously has the potential to reduce the number of existing offline stores significantly. And this isn’t just a hypothesis since statistics on virtual reality is pretty promising.

According to Forbes, VR will be worth $4 billion industry by the end of 2018.

In addition, the number of active virtual reality users will reach 171 million.

The virtual reality market is continuously growing which will bring us a range of new powerful VR headsets and software solutions that we will provide detailed graphics hardly distinguishable from reality.

According to Statista, current revenues from virtual reality software will grow by more than 3,000% in the upcoming four years.

Despite virtual reality being mostly known as a part of the gaming industry, VR technology will significantly influence the ecommerce sector.

A recently published study shows that 12% of VR tech specialists and 7% of VR content creators suppose that immersive technology will have the most impact on retail.

Therefore, the companies implementing virtual reality solution are more forward-thinking. A survey conducted by Greenlight confirms this thought since more than 70% of respondents suppose that brands that use virtual reality are more trendy than those which don’t.

How will virtual reality be used in the future?

virtual reality in future

With the development of new cross-platform solutions, virtual reality will soon be available to many people. To experience virtual reality, they won’t have to download and install a particular mobile application to their flagman mobile device like iPhone X or Samsung Galaxy S9.

We’ll be able to shop with VR from our web browser

We will soon be able to experience virtual reality right in a web browser using a virtual reality headset like Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. It opens broad capabilities for online retailers.

With WebVR – a technology that has the capability to provide virtual reality experience in a web browser – websites will be able to detect available virtual reality devices and determine their characteristics as well as track their position and properly transmit 3D graphics to a particular device.

In other words, this technology enables developers to create VR websites that will turn from plate web pages into virtual showrooms where online shoppers can walk through, navigate to specific shelves, and add items to their carts by really putting goods into virtual 3D models of carts.

The question is how WebVR will influence the ecommerce sector. Not every online retailer will have the possibility to invest in immersive technologies.

However, market leaders will undoubtedly do their best to be among pioneers embracing virtual reality to provide their customers with the extraordinary shopping experience and cut as big as possible a piece of the pie.

brands-virtual-reality

See also: What Does the Price for a Virtual Reality App Depend On?

The ecommerce shopping experience will look like watching a movie

When it comes to worldwide-known retailers embracing virtual reality, Alibaba is among obvious leaders. The Chinese ecommerce company implemented the immersive technology in 2016 through its solution called Buy+.

This VR platform allows customers to virtually visit stores situated in different cities around the world. Using Buy+, customers can walk through a virtual store, take, and examine items.

Also, the VR system enables users to make a purchase right in the virtual store without the need for leaving the virtual environment.

Another important point is that Buy+ uses a cardboard headset like Google Cardboard instead of more expensive high-end devices like Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. It allows the retailer to expand the audience that can use their platform and, potentially, become their customers.

Therefore, the future of the virtual reality technology wouldn’t be that money-consuming for retailers as they thought.

Providing customers with a virtual shopping experience can bring significant benefits to the ecommerce industry.

By combining the advantages of traditional offline shopping and the capabilities of immersive technologies, online retailers can significantly increase their brand awareness and customer engagement while bringing unique emotions to customers’ homes.

We’ll be able to touch the items we intend to buy

Virtual reality is not just about high-resolution graphics and 3D sound. A realistic effect of presence is impossible without the involvement of other human sensations besides vision.

Touch is a critical part of any virtual reality experience since it’s essential for people when it comes to interaction. To fully dissolve in the virtual environment, users should be able to influence it as well as feel its impact on them.

That is why feedback from VR hardware is so important. Various vendors already address this aspect with their haptic devices mostly in the healthcare industry. Although, we might soon be witnesses of how such VR devices become an inherent part of the typical virtual reality shopping experience.

In the close future of ecommerce, VR controllers will be able to provide us with improved haptic feedback from interacting with virtual items in a store.

It will also drive us deeper into virtual environments and help us experience them in a much more realistic way. Thus, walking through a virtual mall will hardly differ from visiting a traditional bricks-and-mortar store.

The success in the growth of haptic hardware becomes especially obvious when examining the example of CLAW, an innovative haptic controller created by a Microsoft development team.

When it comes to design, CLAW has few things that differ from existing haptic controllers. However, when looking closer, you can find out that it has a motorized arm that can rotate the index finger relative to the palm to provide force feedback.

The controller contains the standard functionality like thumb buttons, 6DOF control, and index finger trigger as well as unique capabilities, such as taking and moving virtual objects while receiving force feedback from the device.

Moreover, force feedback depends on a material virtual objects are “made” of. The harder the material is, the stronger the resistance a user will feel while using the controller.

When a user tries to touch a virtual object, CLAW generates some resistance to prevent the user from penetrating a virtual object. The controller also generates vibrations to allow users to feel better a virtual object’ surface.

In fact, the device has a wide range of unique capabilities, but the point is that such devices bring virtual reality to an incredibly new level where we will soon experience difficulties in distinguishing what is real and what is not.

The emerging VR technology improvements expand the horizon for both online and offline retailers and provide them with a possibility to give their customers a shopping experience which would be significantly limited in reality.

Conclusion

The potential of the immersive VR technology in the ecommerce sector is hard to overestimate.

Due to rich visualization capabilities, VR can help customers visit online stores without even leaving their homes and make shopping decisions by allowing them to try an item without any restrictions or risks to damage it.

Even though taking into account the numerous benefits of virtual reality and its further improvement by a wide range of vendors, the immersive technology will hardly fully replace traditional offline stores.

However, when it comes to virtual reality in 10 years, it will definitely cut their quantity across the entire world. We can now observe the situation where online stores without any immersive features start replacing bricks-and-mortar stores because of their advantages like the absence of the necessity to pay for the facility rent.

Thus, we can imagine how popular ecommerce businesses will soon become when they implement virtual reality solutions that can be used through a web browser.

Apart from providing full information about each item in any store, virtual reality gives a customer a unique opportunity to try a product out, examine it from any side as well as interact with it without the need for leaving home.

This immersive technology significantly simplifies the process of making shopping decisions. Virtual reality is not about manipulating customer minds; it’s about moving a traditional shopping experience in offline stores to consumer homes.

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