Virtual reality transforms real-life shopping in stores

By Heather Somerville

San Jose Mercury News (MCT)

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 8 2014 6:58 a.m. MST

In early 2014, Matterport will start publicly selling software that can create a 3-D rendering of the inside of a house. People can view the rendering on a computer screen, explore the house as though taking a video tour and add objects to rooms. Matterport is selling the technology to home improvement and furniture retailers; Crate and Barrel founder Gordon Segal is an investor.

“Instead of the consumers shopping on the retailer’s turf, the retailer is being moved into (the customers’) kitchen and their living room,” said Bill Brown, Matterport chief executive. “In a few years, we’ll have the technology on a tablet or smartphone.”

Virtual and augmented reality apps will offer a level of insight into shoppers’ personal lives — their house, social networks, diet, dress size and shopping routine — that may feel like an invasion of privacy. But between Facebook, PayPal and store loyalty programs, many businesses already have this information, Brinkman said. They just aren’t doing much with it that’s very useful for shoppers, he said.

FaceCake in Los Angeles, the company behind the Bloomingdale’s virtual dressing rooms, will introduce a technology called Swivel to new retailers starting in early 2014. The company will add stores almost every month, including several in the Bay Area, said founder Linda Smith. Shoppers use hand gestures in front of the interactive screens to select clothes to virtually try on, and can accessorize and give themselves a makeover.

“It’s taking the frustration out of going into the dressing room with just a few items and not being able to mix and match outfits,” Smith said. “I tried to take everything about the shopping experience that I find irritating and offer a solution. If you had your dream shopping experience, that’s what I tried to put into this.”


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