Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Virtual Store Aisle

New technology is leading retail store designers to create a more efficient shopping experience. By sending a test subject through a virtual store simulation and tracking eye movements, designers are learning how customers shop. But as computer interfaces become more and more visual, and more and more realistic, perhaps going on a virtual shopping trip will be the way we shop for everything in the future.

We already do a lot of online shopping, purchasing everything from books to groceries. Imagine if you could handle all of your shopping online, not through difficult, text-based lists but through an interface more like the way you shop in person. You could browse through the virtual aisles, select virtual products, and put them in your virtual cart. When you are done, your check-out is instant and painless, and the items will be delivered to you, free of charge, at whatever time you select.

All of this from the comfort of your own home, without the hassle of parking, crowds, or screaming kids.

It may sound far fetched, but at least one company is already trying to change the way we use computers – Linden Labs, makers of Second Life, have produced an interactive, immersive, virtual world where your avatar interacts with others, sharing ideas, buying products, and creating virtual islands (you can actually buy an island and customize it however you want). One of the goals of Second Life, according to Linen Labs, is to create a new interface for the Internet – instead of text-based searches where you jump to your end location, you will walk to where you want to go, experiencing the stuff you skipped over before.

Welcome to the future.

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