Spatialand, a v-commerce startup incubated by Walmart's Store No. 8, is slated to release its first activation to the public just ahead of the Feb. 22 release of the DreamWorks film "How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World," Walmart said in a press release Thursday.
A "virtual tour" powered by HP, Intel and Positron between Feb. 15 and April 9 will visit select Walmart parking lots in 16 U.S. cities in five states, including Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Dallas, Houston and Bentonville, Arkansas. The event is designed to foster one-on-one relationships with the film's characters, the company said.
Following the VR experience, which was designed in collaboration with DreamWorks Animation, users are guided into a "How to Train Your Dragon" themed gift shop where they can purchase memorabilia, including plush toys, action figures and franchise DVDs and video games. Merchandise will be available in 2,000 Walmart stores nationwide and on Walmart.com.
After nearly a year under the Store No. 8 banner, Spatialand has made its virtual reality debut as a Walmart test case of emerging technology. To Walmart executives like Scott McCall, senior vice president for entertainment, toys and seasonal at Walmart U.S., the tour is an example of how Walmart is using emerging tech to enhance the shopping experience.
And in the eyes of Katie Finnegan, CEO of Spatialand and principal at Store No. 8, VR could be a critical battleground for retail. "Spatialand was founded based on the belief that VR will transform merchandising and retail and we can’t wait to finally share this uniquely immersive shopping experience with consumers across the country," she said in a statement.
A commitment to exploring the possibilities of VR in retail has been in the works for a while at Walmart. In October 2017, Store No. 8 held a v-commerce gala to showcase the winners of an open call for companies in the space to pitch their best ideas for how VR could transform commerce. The retail giant has also been testing virtual reality in its training facilities.
Store No. 8 is Walmart's way of testing technologies with the potential to disrupt and ease the shopping experience in three, five, seven or even 10 years, Finnegan previously told Retail Dive. The startup incubator currently consists of Spatialand, JetBlack, an initiative to build a cashierless store and a new startup in stealth mode.