Yesterday, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, Twitter made a virtual reality tech demo from 2017 the main character of the day.
The demo, created for Walmart by a company called Mutual Mobile, presents a possible future of what Walmart shopping might be like via virtual reality. It is, as many of you have said in nearly identical tweets, a ridiculous and illogical way to buy milk.
Why actually reach out your hand and pick up a 3D model of a milk jug instead of just choosing one from the list? Why are the shelves lined up with multiple copies of the same fake wine bottles? Why is 3D space superior to a 2D website? Why would you do any of this?
The real answer, Walmart CEO Jason Norris explains in a video on Mutual Mobile, is, first and foremost, to grab our attention. The video was initially created for the SXSW conference in 2017 to create a “positive buzz”, and “a video that just wouldn’t.” The demo was also later given to a Walmart shareholder event attended by tens of thousands of people, also to get them interested in Walmart.
It’s, like many VR demos that oversell the technology and misunderstand why people have been drawn to it for decades, it’s obvious stupidity. It’s like an early VR game Job Simulator, where the hack of current virtual reality technology is used to parody everyday mundane actions, but not as a joke. It is not fun or useful.
Almost as exhausted as the video itself, there’s a deluge of tweets flooding it, resurrecting a demo of a completely irrelevant concept. Mutual Mobile, at least, is grateful for its brief return to the spotlight.
“We are grateful for the time and effort people put into talking about a virtual reality concept demo 5 years ago! We’ve come a long way since then, but we’re glad our concept still manages to generate engaging conversations,” said Vamsi Thota, Mutual Digital Marketing Analyst. Mobile, to Motherboard in an email.
Thota went on to explain that the demo was made to show off the potential of VR shopping, including its ability to connect seniors or people with disabilities to a shopping experience from the comfort of their own home, something he believes could even be a “blessing” for more people now that We’ve been through several rounds of COVID quarantine.
Also, Mark Zuckerberg decided “metaverse” is a thing, so now everyone is talking and/or condoning the metaverse, and Mutual Mobile has the lead early on.
“The vision of the virtual shopping experience we helped Walmart realize in 2017, validated in today’s Metaverse era,” Thota said. “This whole experience has encouraged us to continue experimenting, innovating, and leading the mission with the latest technology!”
I hate the Walmart VR video just like the next idiot on Twitter. I’ve been saying VR Is BS since 2015, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned since then is that there’s no amount of stomping on our feet and pointing out what’s stupid it’s obviously going to stop it. Headphones are getting better. Virtual reality game developers say they just had a record-breaking holiday season thanks to the Oculus Quest 2. PlayStation just announced a new PSVR console. Virtual reality will probably happen, eventually, and you’ll hate it at least as much as your smartphone.
Is Walmart VR demo stupid? definitely. If dunking your old marketing videos in an automated and quick way will make you feel better, go for it, but it won’t stop it.