The Future Of Marketing: A Tesco For The Oculus Rift

By Graham Smith on March 24th, 2014 at 4:00 pm.

All in our homes, navigating empty shopping malls alone.

Fans of the metaverse might briefly remember that period, 2003-2006, when all the world’s companies leapt upon Second Life as a new digital avenue for brand expansion, synergy, and other ultimately pointless ways to invest their marketing money. Well, good news! Because now the Oculus Rift is available, there’s a whole new way to “communicate your brands message.” Supermarket chain Tesco are getting in first, with a virtual recreation of a supermarket.

I would play this. I will “play” this. A trailer of your consumerist future awaits below.

I took a 15 minute break this morning to answer my door to the Tesco man, who each week visits my house to deliver my supply of bagels, Pepsi Max and fine olives. But just because the food now comes to my door doesn’t mean I don’t long to visit the nightmarish capitalist warehouse of the modern supermarket. The slick floors, the artificial lighting, the company-specific radio stations.

The Ballardian banality of it makes it the perfect setting for virtual reality. While we’re re-creating unpleasant modern experiences, can I get a similar experience set inside a roadside service station?

The only downside/upside is that in the virtual version, I can’t go in for some toilet paper and come out with three bags of crisps, some cereal, and a crate of beer. Not yet anyway, though I assume that’s where Tesco and advertising agency FIGUREdigital hope this will go.

There doesn’t seem to be a way to download and try it yet. Maybe in the meantime you should explore Jerry’s apartment from Seinfeld instead.

Thanks, PCGamesN.

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65 Comments »

  1. Railan says:

    What… I don’t even… Who is the target of this product?? Why would I, average-user, want to use it?

    • ChrisGWaine says:

      It’s likely that the real target of the product was, in some sense, who ever FIGUREdigital pitched to at Tesco.

    • Railan says:

      I bet she works evaluating Tesco supermarket layouts… on her laptop, using OR. That doesn’t sound to bad, actually

    • Runty McTall says:

      I’d use it when doing my online shop – I find the discoverability of items on their website terrible for some reason. I really need to be able to stroll the aisles to see what grabs me.

      This seems like a nice approach, although I expect if they were to expose their full range then it would take a considerable time to go past it all.

      • Railan says:

        The thing is, the pushing and prodding would be much heavier than in the real supermarket or in the web. Can you imagine naggy NPCs approaching you and blasting full power: CHECK OUR LATEST PORK CHOPS OFFER!!!!!! ONLY 2.99 QUID!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OFFER!! OFFER!!!!!!!!!

        I understand the benefits of “exploring in 3D” as opposed to the list-heavy, multiple pages web approach, but the increased control the supermarket has over just a regular inventory-dump-like webstore doesn’t seduce me.

      • kodjeff1 says:

        Cool idea. But they better not implement anything akin to a stamina bar, otherwise getting from electronics to sporting goods in that Amazon warehouse is going to be a chore.

    • hap says:

      Please walk through and browse the cereal aisle before viewing your selected content.

    • SpinalJack says:

      It’s probably meant for marketing research, advert effectiveness, gaze tracking, brand awareness, shop layout, that sort of thing.

      • redeyedsamurai says:

        That’s precisely what this is for. The idea of virtual supermarkets has been around since the dawn of the internet but the reality is, is that most of the sales still come from physical (RL) supermarkets. Using easily traceable user statistics will allow Tesco to maximise sales based on much more accurate statistics.
        Confession: I work for the company that creates the 3D rendered version of these products.

  2. waaaaaaaals says:

    Sooner or later it’s going to get a mod that fills it with horse-based food.

    Well more horse-based food anyway.

    • fatgleeson says:

      My experience with Skyrim horse mods makes me shudder at the thought of this

    • BTAxis says:

      Horse food armor? horse armor food?

    • TheMightyEthan says:

      100% horse-fed horse for that double-horse juiced-in goodness.

  3. LionsPhil says:

    Slick marketing firm cannot correctly use an apostrophe.

    And, oh boy, I can’t wait until I have a box strapped onto my face to change my consumer behaviour. We future now.

    • Kefren says:

      I thought that too!

    • Zunt says:

      The one strapped to your face shows you what you want. The one strapped to your doodahs delivers a helpful and pleasing (*) shock should you temporarily not want it.

      *-YMMV.

    • Premium User Badge particlese says:

      I suppose they were trying to undo the damage caused by other grocers’ over the years, but my favourite part is that the mistake was made in a sentence pitching this thing as a communication tool.

  4. Baboonanza says:

    Dale’s Supermarket Sweep baby!

    • LionsPhil says:

      You have just worked out how to turn this into the ultimate horror game.

      • Railan says:

        I’m sure this scenario is repurposed from Generic Zombie Shooter: The Brainsplodin, so it sounds easily doable!

  5. Kefren says:

    I wonder if you can take screenshots of products without security pouncing on you?

  6. Liquidoodle says:

    That is quite clearly a pre-rendered environment and a bad looking one at that, if it’s not then it’s certainly on rails and would probably make whoever their target audience is throw up or get motion sickness after a couple of seconds due to the smooth motion of the camera. I sense they’ve never actually got the Rift working but managed to borrow one from a friend because Sony recently announced a VR device and it’s a cool new band wagon to jump on board. Very cringe worthy.

    • fatgleeson says:

      What’s funnier is they have the power of virtual reality at their fingers, and still made the virtual Tesco as sterile and nauseating as the real thing

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      What’s important is that influential and attractive people like it, because Leveraging Networks.

      • KillahMate says:

        “influential and attractive” is superfluous. They are influential BECAUSE they’re attractive. They are attractive BECAUSE they are influential. Attraction Is Influence. Shop At Tesco.

        • CookPassBabtridge says:

          That was actually two separate groups – those who may be influential, and those who are influential because they are attractive, so essentially ‘what you said’ but with an additional tweak that recognises ugly people can be influential. Though of course, status often makes ugly people attractive so that brings us back to step one in which the world is not a place I want to live in anymore WHEN TESCOS ARE USING THE F***ING RIFT TO SELL VIRTUAL HADDOCK BEFORE THE DAMN CONSUMER VERSION IS EVEN OUT YET.

          Ennui. I think thats the feeling this gives me. Like an empty, mildly stomach achey feeling. Like I’ve just eaten plastic. Ugh.

        • Damien Stark says:

          Hey look, we found a PC gamer who doesn’t know that Gabe Newell exists!

  7. MrNash says:

    Achievements and online coop or no buy. D-:<

  8. Henchimus says:

    What… I don’t even… who, in all honesty, is going to go “hmm… I can use my expensive VR headset to a) become pilot of a spaceship in a parallel universe or b) go to the shops… no brainer, 2 for 1 Doritos here I come!”?

  9. communisthamster says:

    This is how Tomorrows World said online shopping would work.

  10. CookPassBabtridge says:

    Will they sell Edward Bernays Sauce?
    /publicrelationspun

    EDIT: Seriously? No-one? That was a quality advertising pun!

  11. scottirvine says:

    Achievement unlocked: stole a pot noodle

  12. madeofsquares says:

    Ladies and gentlemen, the death of satire.

  13. madeofsquares says:

    Dale Winton’s Supermarket Sweep 3D: Aisle of the Dead

  14. DXN says:

    This actually seems like a really interesting idea to me an an indicator of the kind of things besides games that can be done with VR.

    We devote a pretty large amount of resources to having physical shops everywhere, with things you can buy laid out on display to be approached and examined if they interest you. Even somewhere like Argos lays out as much stuff as they can and make a good amount of sales on that. It’s a better experience for the customer and more productive for the shop.

    On the other hand it’s inefficient in a lot of ways: beyond the sheer overhead costs, there’s limited space, and the compromises between design, and keeping a clean, consistent, easily to dismantle and rearrange space, besides many other practical considerations. Selling online via lists on webpages is more efficient and allows costs and therefore prices to be lower. It also allows you to present more information about the products and related products — but you lose that ‘browsing’ experience.

    As a rule, you can’t have both. But this is a way to get pretty close to having both, and to get around some of the limitations of both. Because your virtual store isn’t real, you can design it pretty much however the heck you want, as big as you want, you can have the shelves rearranging and restocking on the fly, whatever. The consumer still gets to browse and investigate and choose in a space instead of just looking at webpages. And you can even present all the extended and related information you want.

    I could well imagine a big vendor, whether one of the current supermarket/department store chains or a newcomer, using this to present in many ways a better experience than either type of shopping, and with much lower overheads, meaning a potential for lower prices for the consumer and a more manageable balance sheet for the vendor.

    Obviously just porting a Tescos into VR is a silly implementation, but it’s an interesting proof of concept.

    • Trillby says:

      This is an excellent thought.

      There would also be massive oppourtinities for increasing their range of products. Places like Amazon can afford to keep an incredible breadth of products since they can save on the floor space.

      This isn’t happening anytime soon, and this early attempt by Tesco is shooting a stinker of an own goal by setting a precedent of in-app advertising and the like. Nothing is going to put off the target market for things like this than plastering banners all over the shop.

      Exciting times, anyway. Now just hover cars and we’re in the future.

  15. Fitzmogwai says:

    I bet those people in the video were actually watching the Elite: Dangerous alpha.

  16. P.Funk says:

    I would much rather explore a virtual Mega-Lo Mart personally.

    Aisle 8A anyone?

  17. Bimble says:

    Gets out of car at services, walks in past Starbucks and BURGERS! quick, to the pretend outdoors that is the toilets, ah, bird song is so much better than pee and plopping, bet it still smells like pee and plopping though, non issue for me, hehe. Now, this is so much easier in VR land… I wonder… is eye contact taboo in vr loos? Ohoh boss!

  18. Tei says:

    The best interface to sell / buy stuff is 2D, … the 3D don’t add a value and actually may make things more confusing.

    The only value of 3D could be to build 3D things, like decorations, and tables, chairs.. You don’t want to buy a humonguous big chair for the toilet. 3D can give you a sense of “thing” that may make a chair likeable. A photo don’t give the full picture that a 3D model maybe could give. But them you probably want something out of high definition voxels and raytracing, maybe.

  19. GardenOfSun says:

    Am I the only one quite distinctly spooked (and intrigued, in a psychoanalitical/philosophical sort of way, ie “fascination for the perverse”) by this whole thing?

  20. Waterpoet says:

    Are there zombies in this game?

    Wait… AM I THE ZOMBIE???

  21. Jake says:

    That looks great, they’ve really captured the feel of a supermarket-cum-football stadium. But I don’t think you’ll really get the full Tesco experience unless it’s massively multiplayer online. Without hordes of scowling, fruit-sniffing, aisle-whales swarming around looking for nothing in particular it just won’t be the same, it’d be almost too easy to get the milk and get out in under five minutes (which I assume is the objective).

    Also I hope that music stays in the final game, on endless repeat. They should pipe that into ‘real’ Tesco stores as well.

    The motorway service station expansion sounds good to me, maybe they could get The Chinese Room to develop it.

    • Shiloh says:

      It’ll be fun designing your in-game avatar. I’ll probably end up in the zebra onesie, pink slippers and hair in a scrunchie combo. There’s a youngish lass goes into our local Tescos who totally rocks that look. I’m not sure about the pram, snouts and “Tyler” but maybe I could get those in the game too?

  22. Sgt_Big_Bubbaloola says:

    I think the saying ‘Through the looking glass’ is rather appropriate here.

  23. Premium User Badge emertonom says:

    By way of counterpoint to everyone talking about this as dystopian and banal and horrifying, as an American who has never been to the U.K., I would actually find this pretty interesting. I’m sure there are some minor cultural differences that you’d never think of until you actually saw them. It’s not something I’d, y’know, go back to often, but I’d certainly take a look around it if it were available for download. It’s probably less interesting if you can just pop down the street and see it, obviously, but I’d probably take a look if it were a local store too, if only to see what they had and hadn’t abstracted. Do the trolleys always pull to the left when you’re pushing them? (Maybe you could use “katamari damacy”-style controls, so you’d have to push both shoulder buttons to push the cart, and you’d have to push the left harder than the right because it kept drifting, and back up while jiggling it to get it unstuck, and so forth?) Are the items actually separate on the shelves, or are they just a skinned wall of goods, impervious to customer interaction, like a weird 24th century museum recreation of “Tescos of the past”? (This last is kind of how it looks to me in the video, but that’s kind of fascinating in and of itself, in a “it’s so misguided I can’t look away” manner.) Is there dirt? Is anything on the shelf shifted a little out of alignment because of previous shoppers? (This probably makes a difference with respect to what catches customers’ eyes…) Are there price tags on the shelf that are for the wrong product, because they fell off and someone tried to helpfully reattach them but put them in the wrong spot, or perhaps because one product ran out, so they spread out an adjacent item to fill the empty spot, or maybe just because it’s the section with all the vegetables, and the prices are clustered all in one place away from the veg themselves, and the staff didn’t notice there’s no price posted for the turnips? There are all kinds of things about real supermarkets that are weird and messy and just, well, human, and the experience would feel a lot more visceral and real with those kinds of imperfections preserved, but I expect they’re removed, because of course it’s marketing, and also because modelling things that precisely is really expensive and painstaking work. But a *really* brilliant marketing firm would include them, because if they really modelled an actual, honest-to-goodness Tesco experience, warts and all, wouldn’t you find that fascinating? Wouldn’t you want to check it out, just to see it?

    Of course, part of me just thinks we haven’t figured out yet what works in VR, and I’m happy to see people doing basically anything at all, because any bizarre experiment like this might hold some unexpected inspiration. I’m INTENSELY curious what sorts of things are going to really take off as VR games, so really, anything is interesting to me at this point.

    So yeah. I’d download and try this out if it existed. I expect it’d be trite and disappointing, with sort of a “doom”-era 3d experience, but I’d love to be surprised, or for someone to react to it and produce something vastly more authentic.

  24. uh20 says:

    first off i would like to point out that this video outright won the hilarious box-on-face award for VR videos.

    the rest of it is basically being hit by a badly textured/modeled store that gets to pass subliminal messaging to you like… a real store

  25. Premium User Badge melnificent says:

    That video makes me appreciate the recent move to a smallish village. Local businesses with FRESH food that will let you buy 2 potatoes instead of a bag that half goes to waste.

  26. Stimpack says:

    I think the lyrics to that song were “I get lost in your love glove.”

  27. Eebahgum says:

    Is there a shoplifting version with virtual grabbing hands and deep pockets, or could we maybe role-play an overly awkward customer who goes on a rampage knocking over stacks of beans because their favourite toilet paper has gone up in price yet again?

  28. Premium User Badge particlese says:

    Given the music, here’s my read:

    Shiny Black Suit Jacket Girl and Business Casual White Shirt Guy are lonely, so they sign up for VR Dating Service. Fancying themselves some realistic fiction role-playing, they select Post-Rapture World as the venue and have themselves a game of hide-and-seek in the aisles. Then, since this is a montage of their romantic life, the video cuts to their attempt at watching a football match only to find that no one’s there.

    I HAVE SEEN THE FUTURE

  29. Wulfram says:

    If you could pick up and examine products in 3D it might start to have a point

  30. Premium User Badge Chaz says:

    If you can’t shoot other shoppers, then I just don’t want to know. Let me upgrade a trolley with mini-guns and rocket launchers. Or maybe a “Baby Cart” style trolley with a little ninja boy in it.

  31. CookPassBabtridge says:

    Like I’m still waiting for the sicker corners of the internet to make an FPS out of that 3D model they did for the Pistorius trial, I can’t wait to see all the hideous things a knowledge of modding and a perverted sense of humour will make of this.

  32. CelticPixel says:

    Make this moddable then launch a game jam based on it.

  33. Premium User Badge corinoco says:

    Ralian you are spot on. That is exactly what this software is for. Standard architectural modelling drops dead at trying to show supermarkets with fully stocked shelves, quite specialised software needs to be used. Google ‘planograms’.

    Think about what a store looks like with no stock – it’s just grey and white, no colour because you don’t want to compete with the product. The stock provides the colour, and decent design requires good 3d images.

    I work in this field using similar software.

  34. Premium User Badge corinoco says:

    CelticPixel. One word – Unity

  35. Premium User Badge JamesTheNumberless says:

    I think I will play this, just for the experience of being able to walk through a decent supermarket without leaving the country.

    Looking forward to the Austrian version, which will be closed during most of the hours that employed people can actually visit, never have any meat when you’re looking for it, stock a fun selection of completely random fruits and vegetables from day to day – only have one kind of (mild Irish) cheddar but 1000 varieties of identical waxy emmental – and be as likely to stock lamb or any fresh fish, as Tesco is to have sirloin unicorn steaks in its butcher’s section.

  36. psuedonymous says:

    To counteract the “WAT” slightly: one of the biggest users of CAVE systems are the retail industry. Along with a force-sensing disembodied shopping trolley bar controller (no, really. If you happen to be near Reading University, go to the Systems Engineering department and ask to see theirs), and eye-tracking cameras to measure where consumers look and how long, supermarkets use them to plan layouts to maximise the chance shoppers will see high-margin items over low-margin ones.

    This is just doing the same thing, just dramatically cheaper (CAVEs cost a few orders of magnitude more than a Rift, and aren’t portable) and with much less functionality.

  37. Axeman89 says:

    Wasn’t there a Doonesbury newspaper comic storyline in the 80s with this exact plot? (In which a character shopped for groceries via virtual reality, and kept messing up.)

  38. DaveYourFave says:

    I think the Oculus Rift is super cool, certainly one of the most exciting developments in film / gaming technology that I’ve tried in awhile. I think the possibilities are endless, from movies to games to training. Could you imagine a movie theater without screens, but just several OR headsets? It would be great.

    Here’s an example of what I’m talking about, as far as the OR being used for something a little more out-of-the-box:

    http://www.unit9.com/project/w

    What do you guys think?