Retail company intu is the largest owner of shopping centres in the UK, with more than half of the UK population having shopped with the company at one point. With the rise of online shopping, Karen Harris, Managing Director of intu Digital believes in the integration of technology into the shopping experience.
In an interview with Techx365, Harris spoke of the vision that intu has of the future of shopping, one in which the physical and virtual worlds become intertwined. It is a world in which a customer should be able to walk into an into shopping centre wearing mixed-reality (MR) glasses and have a holographic shopping assistant greet them and help them find everything they are looking for.
“Currently the issue is the form factor — the glasses are just too big and the field of view too limiting, but we have everything else,” says Harris, “the WiFi is already there in our shopping centers with blue dot location technology, we already have access to all our retailers’ online catalogs and offers, we’re just waiting for the glasses to catch up!”
Indeed some of the technology already exists, such as a virtual shop assistant who uses publically available data to help customers shop for things such as gifts. For example, accessing a user’s Facebook profile to find out what the customer’s friends likes and dislikes are. Some implementations of virtual reality (VR) experiences have already begun to appear in UK shopping centres.
“We ran a VR leisure pilot at intu Victoria Centre in Nottingham using HTC Vive, and we created a physical log cabin. It was a free two-minute experience. Visitors where able to decorate a virtual Christmas tree, then pick up a virtual Polaroid camera and snap a photo of it. We then email that photo to the visitor. It was one of the most highly rated shopping center experiences we’ve ever run — it got over an 98% satisfaction rating.”
Karen Harris will be speaking on VR and AR in retail at the VR & AR World Zone section of TechXLR8 on 13-15th June at the ExCel Centre in London. Further information can be found on the official website.
VRFocus will continue to bring you news on developments of VR and AR in retail.