by: Ilya Vedrashko

Kinset is a new company that builds
virtual 3D storefronts for online and multi-channel retailers. The
storefronts can be viewed with a special browser that comes in a rather
small download. One of the potential applications for the service is a
virtual environment that can be used to test real-world store layouts,
and this video shows how these storefronts are generated and populated with merchandise.
If you download Kinset browser and go "in-world", you'll see their two
test stores populated with Amazon's affiliate goodies. Their news release says Brookstone will have built a store on the platform, apparently by the end of the year. Here's a recent Boston Globe's write-up on the company.

The idea sounds a lot like what P&G has been doing in Britain
for a while -- using VR technology to research consumer in-store
behavior. One of the downsides, though, of Kinset and similar
initiatives in Second Life and other words is that on-screen shopping
is not an accurate approximation of the in-store experience.

Here
are a few screenshots and impressions from my own exploratory shopping
trip to Kinset (click images to zoom in). The service is in beta, so
not everything might be ready for the prime time yet.

The
shelves in the middle behind the cash register are populated with
search results -- one of the nicer touches of the application;
merchandise on the side shelves is persistent.

While
the virtual shelves work better for books and music that look fairly
realistic, the electronics are rendered not as 3D models but as flat
product snapshots. This, of course, is the most immediate future of all
such attempts at shopping virtualization until there is a cheap and
fast way to create and import large quantities of 3D product images.
Having the TVs actually display videos would also be nice but probably
not feasible any time soon.

Pointing
on an item produces its Amazon description (right). The shopping cart
is not rendered through a traditional cart metaphor, though; it's a
simple window (top center).

The idea has potential but I there's
a lot to be done to bring it to the point where the effort of going
into a 3D interface to shop starts paying off. It would be nice to be
able to pick an object up and look at the back panel (if it's a TV), or
have the shelf updated with merchandise similar to the item you are
looking at, or stream music samples for CDs, or talk to a live or a bot
assistant.

To make Kinset a useful planogramming tool, it would
make sense to connect the software to traffic sensors and visualize
shoppers' paths around the store.
Original post: http://adverlab.blogspot.com/2007/10/screenshots-kinset-3d-shopping-browser.html

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