Alibaba Turns To VR To Provide ‘Immersive Shopping Experience’

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Chinese online retail behemoth Alibaba seems to be taking virtual reality seriously. Facebook-owned Oculus plans to launch its VR headset later this month while Sony has announced that its PlayStation VR would arrive in October. Alibaba plans to use virtual reality to provide “immersive shopping experience” to its more than 400 million users. The company has set up a research lab to develop VR-related products and services.

Alibaba to apply VR to other services as well

The Hangzhou-based company announced Thursday that it was exploring how virtual reality could be applied to its other services such as video streaming and online games. Alibaba believes the technology will become as common as television. According to Goldman Sachs, the virtual reality and augmented reality hardware industry will be worth $110 billion by 2025.

Earlier this month, Alibaba led an $800 million funding round in the US-based augmented reality startup Magic Leap. The e-commerce company’s new GnomeMagic Lab will work closely with its other units and affiliates such as Alibaba Pictures and Youku Tudou. The online retailer will work on creating videos and music, and help promote VR hardware manufacturers on its platforms.

Building a large gallery of 3D images

Zhao Haiping, an Alibaba engineer working on the VR-enabled shopping platform, said one day users could be able to shop on Fifth Avenue in New York while sitting in their home. The company plans to create the largest ever product gallery of 3D images for shoppers. It comes at a time when the Chinese economic growth is slowing down, which may affect consumer spending.

The Jack Ma-led company has come under fresh fire from the state-run broadcaster CCTV over the rampant sales of fake goods on its sites. CCTV said faking orders was still very common on China’s largest shopping platform Taobao, run by Alibaba. The practice involves sellers paying some people to place fake orders on the platform and leave 5-star reviews. More sales and high ratings help boost their standing on online marketplaces.

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