Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are helping retail stores regain relevance

shopping malls out mixed commerce in southdale grand opening oct 8 1956 first mall
Sixty years ago, on October 8, 1956, the first shopping mall opened, reports Minnesota Monthly. But now a glut of retail space is no longer paying off and retailers are increasingly turning to the “mixed commerce” made possible by 3D technology, according to Marxent.

Donald Dayton of Dayton’s department stores wanted to improve shopping in Minnesota in the 1950s. The frigid state had only 126 “ideal shopping weather” days each year. Dayton hired architect Victor Gruen to design a new style of shopping “experience” that could add more shopping days regardless of the weather. The result was Southdale. Built at a cost of $20 million, Southdale had 80,000 square feet and 72 stores when the first indoor shopping mall opened in 1956.

In the decades since, however, shopping malls and large department stores have grown too plentiful and too large. This summer, Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren explained to CNBC why Macy’s is closing 100 stores this year, after closing 40 stores in 2015. “Here’s the facts: In the United States, there’s 7.3 square feet per human being of retail space. That’s just ridiculous when you consider that in the U.K. it’s 1.3, in France it’s 1.7, in Japan it’s 1.7,” said Lundgren. “We have five and a half times the number of retail physical locations in America per capita than anywhere else in the world.”

So what’s the answer? According to Joe Bardi writing in Marxent’s AR Blog, the best way to get the most from physical locations is to use smaller footprints with 3D technology. “The mixed commerce model can take the shape of a pop-up store as small as 200 square feet, a Main Street or strip retail storefront as small as 1,000 square feet, or an interactive 3D display.”

Marxent cited three examples of current mixed commerce implementations. Tesla’s mall stores let you feel the upholstery and see the colors of the metal while customizing a car by computer. European furniture dealer combines a small physical showroom with virtual shopping. At Target’s  Wonderland,  open for a limited time in 2015, was part toy store and part holiday playground where shoppers could experience various “scenes and spectacles” while wearing lanyards with RFID chips that could be used to make purchases of products related to the various settings.

VR and AR showrooms will help retailers leverage physical space, writes Bardi. In the fully realized mixed commerce format, “physical merchandise is replaced by 3D models that can be configured into scenes or viewed and interacted with on their own. Actual retail space is utilized to provide tactile engagement, allowing customers to actually interact with physical materials, along with mobile design tools. This new model blends the best of brick and mortar with leading edge digital technologies to create a high speed and ultra efficient sales process.”

The indoor shopping mall was invented to meet the needs of shoppers in the 1950s. In the near future, mixed commerce will include “everything from virtual reality test drives to an entire VR showroom.”

Updated by Bruce Brown 10-10-16: Updated to specify that Target’s Wonderland was open for a limited time in 2015.


Where Toronto sees smart sidewalks, residents see ‘1984.’ So what now?

Google-parent Alphabet is partnering with Toronto to develop a new, smart neighborhood, but some are concerned about privacy and the company’s motives. Could residents derail the project?

The hottest Nintendo Switch games you can get right now

The Nintendo Switch's lineup started off small, but games have steadily released as the console continues through its second year. Here are the best Nintendo Switch games available now, from Super Mario Odyssey to Fortnite.

Nissan and Italdesign’s GT-R50 concept will become a $1.1 million reality

The Nissan GT-R50 is a customized sports car built to celebrate the 50th anniversaries of both the GT-R and design firm Italdesign. Underneath the sleek bodywork sits a 710-horsepower engine fortified with race car components.
Home Theater

AT&T’s new three-tiered streaming service will include movies, possibly HBO

AT&T has laid out new details for its planned streaming service that's set to launch in 2019. It will include three different price tiers, and will feature movies, original programming, and content from its acquisition of Time Warner.
Social Media

Ride the rails and share your stories with Amtrak’s new social media residency

Amtrak is looking for travel fans with a knack for telling stories on social media. The new Amtrak social media residency program wants amateur travelers to share photos, video, and written content from aboard long-distance trips.

A second Wells Fargo glitch results in the foreclosure of more homes

A computer error has struck Wells Fargo once again, resulting in hundreds more homes being mistakenly foreclosed after a first glitch was reported in August. To compensate one customer, the bank sent a check for $25,000.

Samsung partners with AT&T to create a multi-band 5G smartphone for late 2019

Ready to experience a radical transformation in mobile communication? AT&T is launching mobile 5G in cities across the country over the next few months. Here's everything you need to know about the AT&T 5G rollout.

Sprint confirms it will launch a 5G smartphone with Samsung in 2019

Like other carriers, Sprint is working hard on bringing the next generation of cellular connectivity to customers. In fact, the company has even announced that it's working with HTC and Qualcomm on a new 5G smart hub.

Qualcomm's 3D Sonic fingerprint sensor could make your next phone more secure

Almost exactly a year after the launch of the Snapdragon 845, Qualcomm took the wraps off of its next-generation mobile platform, the new Snapdragon 855. The new chip puts an emphasis on A.I. performance.
Movies & TV

Movies Anywhere service adds Comcast films to its library and devices

Movies Anywhere lets you watch movies purchased from different services all in one place, and it just got even better with the addition of Comcast, which joins Microsoft, Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, and FandangoNow.

Can Microsoft’s Airband Initiative close broadband gap for 25M Americans?

A new report from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) says that 25 million Americans do not have access to broadband internet. Of these, more than 19 million are living in rural communities. Can Microsoft help out?

Amazon scouted airport locations for its cashier-free Amazon Go stores

Representatives of Amazon Go checkout-free retail stores connected with officials at Los Angeles and San Jose airports in June to discuss the possibility of cashier-free grab-and-go locations in busy terminals.

‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’ wins one of the worst box-office weekends of 2018

Wreck-It Ralph sequel Ralph Breaks the Internet stayed on top of the weekend box office for the third week, winning what was one of the worst weekends for ticket sales in the US so far this year.

Google+ continues to sink with a second massive data breach. Abandon ship now

Google+ was scheduled to shut its doors in August 2019, but the second security breach in only a few months has caused the company to move its plan forward a few months. It might be a good idea to delete your account sooner than later.