The Alibaba Group, an e-commerce organisation, launched its virtual reality (VR) shopping programme at its 'Taobao Makers Festival' over the weekend.
Alibaba's Buy+ technology will allow users to select apparel and accessories with the help of a 360-degree panoramic view and assistance from a robotic shopping assistant.
The Alibaba Group launched its VR strategy in March by establishing the GnomeMagic Lab to develop technologies and supporting infrastructure. The lab has completed several hundreds of product models for its Buy+ technology.
The inaugural Taobao Maker festival was held from 22 July to 24 July at the Shanghai World Expo Exhibition Center.
The festival celebrated Taobao merchants by showcasing creative ideas and designs to the world, including cutting-edge gadgets, fashion and high-tech products.
At the festival, audience members had the opportunity to wear Alibaba's VR headset and be taken through a futuristic shopping experience, including a VR robot to help customers choose the best products to suit their needs and a 360-degree panoramic view that enables shoppers to view products on offer in more detail.
Moving forward, Alibaba will work with other businesses within the Group such as Alibaba Pictures and Alibaba Music to produce premium VR content, and support hardware vendors to popularise new VR devices.
With interactive content and cutting-edge technology, Alibaba plans to turn VR into a communication tool that can help companies engage with consumers on a more personal level, creating a rewarding and engaging shopping experience by taking them into “the store”. Alibaba believes the VR shopping experience will become a valuable and sought after service in itself, just as much as the products on offer online.
Alibaba Group sees huge potential in VR going forward. Goldman Sachs predicts that revenues generated by VR and AR hardware will reach USD $110 billion within ten years, and that VR devices will become as pervading as televisions. A report from AliResearch, the research arm of the Alibaba Group, also shows that as the VR industry matures, consumers may spend as much as 40% of their entertainment time on VR.
The technology may take some time from full commercialisation.