Walmart is bringing 50-foot tractor trailers to a few of its stores’ parking lots that will contain a virtual reality (VR) experience with a “How to Train Your Dragon” theme, CNBC reports.
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By sitting in VR-powered chairs and wearing VR headsets, users can see, feel, and smell sensations that make them feel like they’re in the movie. The experience is an application of Walmart subsidiary Spatial&, a tech company that the retailer has had growing in stealth mode under its incubator Store No. 8 since acquiring it in February 2018.
The "How to Train Your Dragon" experience may be just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Walmart’s usage of VR. The retailer already uses VR academies to train employees by simulating the experience of working a busy Black Friday shift.
And the new Spatial& VR technology has potential for future applications such as letting users test camping gear or visit the vineyard that Walmart’s wine comes from, CEO of Spatial& Katie Finnigan told CNBC. If Walmart works VR technology into its stores, it could enjoy several benefits, including the ability to cut back on large displays — furniture displays, for example, could be virtual, a concept Macy’s started experimenting with in May — and more fully immerse customers during their time in the store, fostering a unique and valuable in-store experience.
The launch of Spatial& from its stealth mode marks the second company to emerge from Store No. 8. Walmart also launched personal shopping service Jetblack in Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn in June.
The service, which costs $50 per month, allows users to text Jetblack to request items or recommendations, which Jetblack employees, aided by artificial intelligence (AI), then curate through Walmart and other local specialty retailers.
The fact that these companies are starting to emerge suggests that the Store No. 8 incubator is having success developing scalable innovations that Walmart can use to boost its service offerings.
What remains to be seen is whether Walmart’s incubator projects will gain wide enough adoption to be game changers for the retailer. Since Jetblack’s launch, there’s been no definitive sign that the service is gaining a large or dedicated customer base.
And, as far as the new VR technology from Spatial&, while it’s certainly a big innovation, it’s by no means a guaranteed hit with shoppers: Only 23% of consumers have said they want to use a VR device when shopping, according to a survey by Oracle NetSuite and Wakefield cited by CNBC. Although the new Store No. 8 projects are innovative, they’ll amount to little more than feathers in Walmart’s cap if the consumer demand isn’t high enough to spur adoption.
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