Side project. Work in progress.
A Place For Browsing & Killing Time
Customers don't usually come to Amazon to browse. Interesting Finds is one of the few experience in Amazon where customers would come to browse and look for inspirations in their leisure time. It is a browse experience that features curated “interesting” items on Amazon. Things are organized by themes here. Each theme is a boutique. Anyone can become a curator to create and share their own boutiques by collecting the items they like on Amazon.
For example, the screenshot on the left is a page on Interesting Finds. It shows a mix of fun products found on Amazon. Among them is a boutique named “Corgi Corgi Corgi” which lists, well, all things about Corgi.
Switching the Perspective
I want to create an attractive browsing experience that can generate media headlines and let people know that besides spear-fishing, they can also have a unique browsing experience on Amazon.
According to the research we did, when people try to describe the experience when they shop online and explain the reason behind certain behaviors, they usually refer to how they would do it in a physical store. So I want to retain the spirit of Interesting Finds but make it immersive so that it resemble the excellence of exploring a local boutique store.
We already know building a virtual environment that replicate a physical store won't work. Inspired by René Magritte's work, I was thinking what if customers are actually minions who are surrounded by giant products?
Rene Magritte loves to enlarge everyday objects and play with perceptions and perspectives in his work. He empowers the objects and makes us rethink our relationship with them. When I was looking at his work, I thought this is prefect for VR. It presents something you would otherwise not be able to see and feel in the real world.
For a short recreational shopping journey, I want to have customers look at these funny designed ordinary objects in a different way. The objects are the powerful ones, not the people. The objects are the environment itself, not just the decorative part.
Explore & Prototype
This virtual space needs to be immersive at the same time very easy for customers to go from one boutique to the next.
I had two ideas about how to go from one boutique to another. One is to open up a tunnel in the air where a user can see things from another boutique. The other is to create a halo on the floor and let things from another boutique emit from the halo. I ended up choosing the tunnel because the transition process feels more natural: once selected, the tunnel keep getting bigger and moving closer to the user. When the tunnel finally move pass where the user stands, the user would be in another boutique.
Although it is more of a fun exploration rather than a serious shopping experience, users still want to look at the items they interested in in their actual sizes. So I when user point at the item and clicks on the controller, the item will snap to a few inches above the tip of the controller and transform into its true scale. A panel showing basic product information will appear in front of the user as well.
Below is a video of the prototype that I did in Unity to visualize the concept. In theory, 3D model is required for every single item displayed. For now, I just use photos in my prototype.
Each boutique is a hub. customers can teleport among the hubs by selecting the tunnel in the scene that shows a sneak-peek of what’s in the other boutique.
When customers grab the item with the controller, the item would come to them and become they actual size in real life. Minimum product info is presented on a floating UI that follows the user’s camera Y rotation.
Not all the items and boutiques are worthy for such a VR experience.
We have to create and maintain up-to-date a lot of 3D models for the products as the catalog keep changing throughout time.
It’s still very hard to persuade people to put on a VR headset.
It’s even harder to attract people to come back once novelty wears off.