Alibaba VR and AR shopping experience

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The World is quickly evolving and it seems that it’s merging with technology more and more every day. We have seen numerous marvels of technology happening, but nonetheless, one of the most trending topics is Virtual Reality and Augmented reality. 

Lots of important businesses and entrepreneurs in the tech sector are pushing more and more towards it, while others just acknowledge these technologies will be a gargantuan part of our near future; we’re talking less than 5 years until it becomes mainstream, even sooner when taking into account that Apple wants to release some Smart Glasses in 2021 or 2022.

 Also, our lives, especially for the last year have been forcibly shifted towards staying in our own homes, banning us from visiting museums, malls, parks, and other socially and culturally important places. This also meant that people would just consume more online content and will buy more things, even more so considering the Stimulus Checks US citizens received from the Government.

Taking a step back, we must see the elephant in the room, that Augmenter/Virtual Reality will also become common in E-commerce in the following years.

Some companies have already invested in such endeavors, and we’re not talking small Silicon Valley Startups, but E-commerce giants like Alibaba and Amazon.

Let’s find out what they are up to.

But first…

What are Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality?

Source: “Consumers get first peek at alibaba’s Buy+ VR Store” Available at:

These are two different technologies that allow you to view and interact with the world very differently, with just a small headset-like or glas

ses-like gadget on your head (or even contact lenses sometime in the future). Much like we see in Sci-Fi movies and TV Shows like “Black Mirror”.

Virtual Reality is about seeing everything that’s not in front of your eyes.

Virtual Reality in an immersive environment that can take you everywhere from the Louvre to the Great Wall of China just by putting a headset like Oculus on your head. 

It allows you to visit museums or other attractions, play games with specialized controllers (included in the package), visit websites, create an avatar and chat with other people using this technology, and even create your own virtual environment to relax or work. Yes, virtual offices are a thing nowadays. 

Augmented Reality is like viewing reality with extras. 

Augmented Reality environment is created by wearing Smart Glasses that will add more interactive elements to the world you see. It allows you to view the actual reality (much like normal glasses) with more things to interact with.

Augmented reality is a thing, you can even use your own smartphone to download free Augmenter reality apps for various purposes such as measuring your room without a ruler, play a different version of Laser tag with your friends, catch Pokemon (Yes, Pokemon Go actually uses Augmented Reality), put various stickers on your face, and much more. 

How does E-commerce intersect with Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality?

Source: “7 Best Augmented Reality Glasses You Need to Buy Now!” Available at

The e-commerce sector is one of the most targeted for this kind of application, being the one with the most economic potential.

What is it about? you may fairily ask.

It’s all based on a simple vision. Imagine you are doing a regular shopping spree through the shopping mall that’s nearest to you. You visit the stores you like most, see some things you like, and you buy them. The thing is, although it seemed real and natural, you never actually left your home, maybe not even your bed. All of these thanks to Virtual Reality technology.

Or let’s try another scenario.

This time, you are still sitting in your bed with your Augmented Reality glasses on. You can see the rest of your room and so on, and you feel like shopping. Therefore, you visit your favorite Fashion Store or Bike Shop. You will see the room in front of your eyes with the website you are browsing appear like a pop-up, and you can br

owse the goods directly.

What is different is that only you see the screen, not anyone who enters the room, for example, and you can actually interact more with the items. You could ‘pluck them out’ so you could inspect them better, zoom in/out, rotate them, see their features and function animated, and even check individual pieces (in the case of a bike). The possibilities are endless.

After you finish your shopping session, you just swipe right and you see your virtual office so you could continue your workday. You will be engaged with all the screens you personalized for you only. You will see your main work browser, as well as calendars, email/ chatting app, weather, and even more browser or screens with more of your favorite apps(Spotify, To-doist, Trello, Evernote, etc.).

How is Alibaba using these technologies?

Everyone must’ve heard about Alibaba in their lives. They are the largest retailer in the world, even surpassing Walmart.

This giant is also innovative, trying to breach the limits of regular retail, business, and eCommerce environments, as well as investing in new tech companies that will help in fulfilling their purpose of making it simple to do business anywhere. They are doing their best to enable businesses to transform the way they market, sell and operate and improve their efficiencies.

In the past 4 years, they have done 2 big projects that use VR and AR technology to engage the shoppers. They are called Buy+ (Virtual Reality) and Taobao Buy (Augmented Reality). These projects have been innovated 2, respectively 4 years ago, which means that they are surely working on bringing these to the masses in the future.

What was Buy+ about?

Source: “Consumers get first peek at alibaba’s Buy+ VR Store” Available at:”

Buy+ enables customers to shop in a virtual world with 360-degree views through a VR headset and two handset controls. They may shop items ranging from bags to shoes to lingerie and even digitally display clothing and accessories on a catwalk. Customers can then search through a range of features that include more detailed product details and the option to add or purchase products in the store. 

In their demo a few years back, they showcased a literal virtual shopping mall where you could walk around through its hallways, enter each of the stores there, and interact with the displayed for sale items.

Alibaba Group is still investing in this idea which they want to see as a mainstream habit in the future. At the moment it is still in Beta Testing, meaning it is nowhere near perfect and only a handful of people can access it, and they haven’t even procured an official release date.

We can only assume they will publish it by 2022-2023, taking into account the evolution of such VR headsets from bulky fixed systems that literally hang around your oom like HTC Vive to the light, wireless Oculus 2 that is basically plug and play, only you plug it in after you consume its battery.

How does TaoBao Buy work?

Source: “Alibaba to Launch Taobao Buy, A New Mixed Reality Shopping Experience” Available at:

The other dream-like project is called TaoBao Buy and it’s focused on AR technology this time.

Alibaba’s latest AR filled shopping software seamlessly combines the physical world with 3D graphics with a result that looks like something taken out of a high budget science fiction movie.

A 3,200-square-foot ‘futuristic shopping district’ will be set up in a building along the scenic West Lake in Hangzhou, for bringing this experience to life.

What this consists in is shoppers regularly walk within the premises, and each time they see a product, they can focus their view on it, which will trigger an interactive hologram of the product that will allow the person viewing it to check for more details, see if the item suits them, compare between items, and even see how it would look like when placed in a room.

Users interact with items via various hand gestures and will be able to place them on the floor, or on the coffee table in your living room.

The AR shopping experience will also give shoppers access to details such as product descriptions, consumer ratings, and comments through a digital display that Alibaba hopes will re-energize their shopping experience.


In such a technologically advanced civilization such as ours, it’s no wonder the largest companies are investing heavily in advanced methods of interaction with the world. 

They are investing a lot in Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, especially retail giants such as Alibaba who can get so much economic value out of these technologies. There is only one single issue with their plans, which are ready to be largely available, and that is the gadgets themselves.

These companies need more advanced gadgets such as Oculus 2, or maybe its next iteration and such as the proposed Apple Smart Glasses and Facebook Smart Glasses to go into the mainstream so that consumers will be able to get all the sweet value out of their ideas for the future.

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