Alibaba, the “Amazon of the east,” will soon offer its many customers the chance to do their shopping inside of a virtual reality headset, according to a site registered to the tech juggernaut.
The new feature was said to be revealed at a press briefing in Shanghai last week, during which “an Alibaba representative wearing a Vive VR helmet from HTC of Taiwan showed how a shopper could take a tour of a three-dimensional digital store.”
Navigating a 3D storefront is not the only immersive feature Alibaba is building for this experience. The Shanghai demonstration apparently also revealed these virtual stores will include “a robotic store associate talking to the visitor and recommending new products.”
Customers themselves will be able to “rotate products they see in the virtual store by moving the controller that connects to the Vive helmet and even ask for a model to show how the product works or is worn.” Once a customer is satisfied with a particular product he or she can purchase it instantly.
Alibaba itself is spearheading the development of this software. The company reportedly set up a proprietary facility, known as the Gnome Magic Lab, in March to create and polish tools for merchants to create VR-commerce experiences.
Alibaba is said to be trying to dramatically reduce the cost of 3D modeling and mapping in the future and led the massive investment round earlier this year in Florida-based startup Magic Leap. It is also one of the biggest foreign holdings of Silicon Valley darling, Yahoo.
VR represents a paradigm shift on par with the early days of the Internet when it comes to the retail world. A revolution in personal shopping may be on the horizon, and a company like Alibaba has the resources to to pursue it aggressively.