Diana Budds has published an article over at Fastco Design; The Future Of Shopping Is . . . Second Life On Acid? The article features the work of British designer and filmmaker Allison Crank, who is based in Eindhoven, which is in The Netherlands, not Britain!
The basis of the article is that e-commerce is trumping the mall and therefore, the social experience of the physical mall is being lost. Allison Crank suggests that one way of bringing back the social side of the mall is to introduce virtual reality.
Allison’s concept is the basis of her thesis from June 2015; The Reality Theatre: Shopping In The Ludic Century and in the FastCo Design article we get to hear more of the concept:
Crank calls it “a new third place for the public to meet, perform, indulge, and play in immersive environments.” I call it Second Life on acid. The designer envisions her concept working with augmented reality devices like Microsoft’s Hololens or Magic Leap to superimpose this virtual world over our own. For example, if someone were commuting, he or she could strap on an augmented reality headset and participate in the Reality Theater.
The major problem I have with Allison’s idea is that we’ve seen malls in Second Life, lots and lots of malls. We’ve seen malls with impossible physics, we can teleport in Second Life. However, malls in Second Life have been undone not by a future more immersive product, but by the ease of point and click shopping that the Second Life Marketplace offers. This isn’t unique to Second Life by the way, I’ve seen people in OpenSim asking for web based marketplaces, indeed Kitely has a web based marketplace.
People love the ease of shopping that web based marketplaces provide. This isn’t to say that Allison’s idea is dead in the water, far from it, but it is a warning to people who think virtual reality shopping is going to be a popular tool of choice compared to a web based shopping experience.