The world’s largest company by revenue and the United States’ biggest supplier of jobs has just made a major investment in virtual reality commerce.
Walmart has agreed to purchase a little-known VR startup called Spatialand for an undisclosed amount. Spatialand creates tools that let content creators transform their 2D work into immersive VR experiences.
The deal was carried out by Store No. 8 — Walmart’s hush-hush technology incubator for bleeding edge startups with the potential to advance or disrupt the traditional retail experience.
Spatialand’s founder and 10 employees will be bringing their VR expertise to the Walmart team. Store No. 8’s director, Katie Finnegan, will be taking over as the young company’s new interim CEO.
Details of the acquisition are thin on the ground. Finnegan has not said what the Spatialand crew will be working on for the retail mega-giant or how Walmart is planning to incorporate VR in general into its business model. The clearest bit of insight we have so far comes in the form of a blog post written by Finnegan about the acquisition which she closes by stating:
The team will continue the work we began together last summer at Innov8. This experience transported users to a campsite in Yosemite National Park, where outdoor products such as tents were available to utilize in the same way as when camping, entering the space and judging its size and ease of set-up to ensure it is the best product for the customer’s needs. And while it’s too early to share more about what the team will be working on next, we’re excited to get to work and share more in the future.
Together, we will continue to evolve this technology and develop new product exploration through immersive retail environments. I can’t imagine having better partners than Kim and Jeremy on board to lead us on this journey.
No official timeline has been disclosed but most Store No. 8 projects typically have very long runways. The incubator specializes in promising ideas that may not see public release for at least 5 to 10 years. Finnegan thinks VR could be one such idea.
This is not the first time that Walmart has dabbled in the VR space. Last year, it made headlines for using Oculus Rift headsets to prepare in-store employees for the madness of Black Friday. The Spatialand acquisition, however, is the first time the retail mega-giant has shown any interest in creating VR products of its own.
Walmart seems poised to make its new team into the cornerstone of what could become a much larger VR division, charged with the task of reimagining the way customers shop for goods. According to Finnegan, however, we will have to wait 12 to 18 months (and maybe longer) to find out any more about what the newest members of Store No. 8 are cooking up.
In the meantime all we have are educated guesses.
Considering Spatialand’s expertise in turning existing content into VR experiences, Walmart may be more interested in converting its existing assets into VR rather than building something completely new. Another possible endgame could be the creation of tools that allow Walmart’s partners to easily create VR collateral for their products.
The results may be a few years away, but the mere fact that a company of Walmart’s size and influence has making a big bet on a VR startup is good news for the industry as a whole.