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Virtual Supermarket

Part 2 Project 2000
Ross Cunningham
University of Nottingham, UK

The Internet becomes an intricate web of 3-dimensional spaces, accessible to browsers via head mounted displays.
What will these spaces of our digital future be like?
Enter a new experience where spatio-temporal relationships are redefined and the position of the body in space is questioned....

The on-line shopping experience already exists: it is a flat, two-dimensional, scrolling experience, in most cases, not even linking images to product descriptions.
The Internet is about to accelerate into 3-dimensional space. The success of these spaces will depend largely on their spatial organization and design. Architects will soon have a new platform to play out their design dreams.
The potential of immersive virtual reality technology is once again at the forefront of computer science research. This is largely because of the recent acceleration in high resolution graphics and rendering...making anything seem possible. The cost of the hardware is reducing all the time - virtual reality head-mounted displays (hmds) currently retail at ~$500, making them comparable to other pc add-ons such as scanners, printers and digital cameras.
With the development of these interactive environments the consumer has a new series of aisles to shop in and the seller has a new advertising arena, offering one-to-one marketing potential...

Today advertising bombards us wherever we go - not satisfied with the still image of the magazine or billboard it assigns itself to moving targets, such as buses and taxis. The influence of television and cinema has conditioned us to dealing with these rapid impulses of information.
We have become so caught up in this world of entertainment, of the fast moving image, that we are becoming a race of thrill-seeking individuals. The complexity of media animation and computer games typify this world. Indeed the computer game (nintendo / playstation etc) feeds an increasingly age-irrelevant society with a seemingly necessary buzz.
Soon more will be craved: more immersion, more speed, more interaction. The www is the dormant platform. All that remains is for the technology to catch up with the idea and we are in the game...

The aim is to design a virtual supermarket that: (1) attempts to re-authenticate the superficial physical model by dissolving it into both an on-line shopping experience (for bulk / packaged goods) and small local retail shops (for tangible objects - fresh fruit & veg, bread etc); and, (2) plays a significant environmental role by reducing ring-road traffic (individual car journeys and heavy-goods vehicle journeys from warehouse to supermarket) whilst also deferring attention from ring roads and edge-cities to civic centres.

Ross Cunningham

What Ross Cunningham has grasped very convincingly in this project is the potential impact that virtual shopping will have on our physical environment. But he has also grasped the potential role that architects
may play in designing these virtual shopping environments. Architects, after all, have always designed imaginary three dimensional spaces, and as web design moves into the three-dimensional, many architects will no doubt find themselves working in this area.

This is an imaginative project, rigorously thought through. As a virtual building, it may seem somewhat fictional, but in fact it addresses some very 'real' questions. The presentation, moreover, is very stylish and
accomplished. The whole project is delivered with a subtle sense of irony.

• Page Hits: 1595         • Entry Date: 09 February 2000         • Last Update: 10 May 2001