You’ll soon shop for your next outfit in VR.
Not satisfied with disrupting China’s financial transaction industry, the Chinese Internet giant Alibaba now wants to enable consumers to purchase almost anything in VR with its new BUY+ service. Through its Alipay service, Alibaba has already captured over 70% of the mobile payments market in China enabling users to buy goods and services both online and in store.
At Alibaba’s GnomeMagic VR labs in Hangzhou, China, engineers have been experimenting with shopping environments in VR for several months. You can see the fruits of their work in this Chinese-language video. A word of caution however – the video becomes progressively seedier as a man viewing women’s underwear insists on a demonstration before buying.
At Alibaba’s Taobao Maker’s Fair in Shanghai earlier this month, users donned VR headsets to explore clothing and fashion products in over seventy different e-stores. Customers were immersed in a robot-guided 360 panoramic shopping environment, allowing users to quickly pull up product details and view clothing and accessories showcased by virtual models on the catwalk.
The internet giant’s CMO Chris Tung said in an interview with CNBC that BUY+ “will further convince users by turning those technologies [VR, AR] into upgraded shopping experiences, so I think we would love and have to play a key driving role to develop this market.”
Alibaba’s mobile payment application Alipay already allows customers to buy pretty much anything online and offline, and with five hundred million users (yep, half a billion) there is no shortage of users hungry for new experiences. Combine this with Alibaba’s access to major brands through its ultra-popular online shopping platforms Taobao and Tmall and it is clear that Alibaba is in a unique position to make BUY+ a success.
While the initial consumer trial of BUY+ is expected to launch in China in September of this year, some have been quick to point out potential security issues. For the moment customers will be limited to completing purchases of items discovered in VR by using their mobile phone screens in the real world for payment. However, some have speculated that the integration of retinal scanners in VR headsets could make ultra-secure payments in VR feasible in the near future.