We’ve all thought about how VR could change retail, but now eBay is actually doing something about it.
Together in partnership with Myer, the Australian branch of the online auction site has today launched what it claims is the world’s first VR department store. This takes the form of a free iOS and Android app that requires a mobile HMD to view. Once inside, you’ll be presented with a range of products hovering under different categories. To select one you simply need to a look at it and hold your gaze for a few seconds. You’ll be taken to a VR product page where you can view a 3D render of the item in question and purchase it. eBay has (rather unnecessarily) named this form of navigation as ‘eBay Sight Search’.
The store already features over 8,000 products, but it seems to be limited to just Australia for now. Over time, the app will learn what types of products interest you, and begin to present more of these types of items when you first boot it up. eBay has even created its own Google Cardboard-like HMD, named ‘Shopticals’, to view the store through, and is giving a select number away every day to customers via an official website. It’s also possible to view it on any other mobile HMD, though, including Gear VR. We guess that means an official app for the kit might release later this week.
While it’s great to see the potential of VR retail finally being worked on, eBay’s first attempt looks like it has a few kinks. We welcome the idea of 3D rendered images to view products in but gaze-based interaction doesn’t seem like an ideal fit in comparison to just heading to the eBay website and easily clicking and searching for the products you want. The interface, in which products bounce around a homepage, also looks a little clunky and overwhelming.
That’s not to discredit the work eBay and Myers have done here, but VR retail will need to make some big leaps before there’s a viable reason to put on a pair of goggles instead of relying on the convenience of browser-based stores. We want to use Oculus Touch controllers to pick up clothes and fit them on over our heads, then look in a mirror to see how they fit. We want to use Vive’s Room Scale tracking to walk around that new couch and get a feel for it. We want to use a gamepad to test out that drone for ourselves.
When all of that is possible, then VR retail has a real shot.