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Virtual reality 'to replace high street shopping by 2050'

Published 28/11/2016

Experts writing in The Future Of Shopping report talk about an increased role for virtual reality
Experts writing in The Future Of Shopping report talk about an increased role for virtual reality

High street retailers could be a thing of the past by 2050 as virtual reality takes over the way we shop, experts predict.

The only time we can expect to be asked "Are you being served?" is when interacting with an artificially intelligent app.

The kind of department store epitomised by Grace Brothers in the 1970s sitcom of that name is likely to be consigned to history by the middle of the century.

Instead people will make all their purchases from home, trying on clothes in virtual reality changing rooms and getting advice from AI (artificial intelligence) shop assistants that know exactly how to cater for their tastes.

Online deliveries dropped into the back garden by flying robot drones will become a part of every day life.

Experts writing in The Future Of Shopping report talk about the impact the "fourth industrial revolution" - a merging of physical, digital and biological technologies - on shopping.

They forecast:

:: Virtual reality (VR) headsets that gauge your mood in the lighting and atmosphere of a simulated store.

:: Immersive virtual experiences involving products, such as visiting a cocoa farm to watch beans being picked and processed to make chocolate.

:: AI assistants that know your interests and tastes better than you do and can pre-empt purchases. For instance, shortly before a seaside holiday they might show you a range of swimwear.

:: Holographic fashion shows held in unusual locations.

Co-author Russell Freeman, chief technology officer at digital marketing agency Holition, said: "It's ironic that the fashion industry is renowned for its innovation, yet the way we shop is so old fashioned. From having to use a changing room, to being offered limited space in a shop, the whole experience is generic.

"The future of shopping offers personalised experiences for people, dependent on their taste and mood and at Holition we see it as the humanising of technology.

"Augmented reality, virtual reality, drone delivery and artificial intelligence will completely change the way we shop. It's an exciting time - on the cusp of a revolution."

Virtual reality shopping will be featured at The Big Bang UK Young Scientists And Engineers Fair taking place at the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham, in March next year.

Paul Jackson, chief executive of EngineeringUK, organisers of the Big Bang fair, said: "It is the young people studying maths and science today who will drive this 'revolution' in the future.

"They will build on advances in artificial intelligence, drones and virtual reality and develop other innovative technologies that will shape our day-to-day lives."

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