According to experts, we are on the cusp of a technological revolution. It’s called ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’ and it will dramatically affect the way we live, work and interact with each other.

A quick recap…

The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanise production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production (the digital revolution that has been happening since the 1950s); and the Fourth will build on the Third, with technology embedding itself in our society, and even the human body, in new ways. Technology breakthroughs such as robotics, AI, nanotechnology, 3D printing and autonomous vehicles are all part of this Fourth wave.

When it comes to the impact on shopping and retail, the traditional high street shopping experience will soon be a thing of the past (by 2050 apparently), to be replaced by virtual reality (VR) shopping ‘trips’ and flying robot drones delivering purchases into our back gardens.

Instead of popping to the shops, we’ll pop on our VR headsets, they’ll gauge our mood and change the lighting and atmosphere of our simulated store to suit, as we click and drag our way around. Want to know more about that coffee you’re drinking? Why not pop to the plantation in Colombia and watch the beans being picked and processed.

Using our trusty headsets, we’ll also be able to shop with our friends, wherever they live: scouring for records with your pal from Berlin; retail therapy with your Manhattan mate; or show off your new car as its being finished, all from the comfort of your own home, not even time zones can stop you.


Thinking about a beach holiday? Of course you are, your AI assistant knows already and suggests a few destinations to visit on your headset before making the decision. As your assistant knows your interests and tastes better than you do, they’ve pre-empted your holiday purchases by picking out a rather fetching new swimwear range for you. Just use your virtual body-mapping changing room to try it on for size without leaving the house.

The question is, in our increasingly busy, time-short lives will convenience be king, reigning over the real experience in these new virtual worlds?

Will VR & AR remove the last remaining reasons for visiting shops?

Paul Mottram, Head of VR production company, Near Light:

“Not immediately, but most people have AR capable mobile phones and the barrier to entry is reducing at a tremendous rate with technologies such as Apple ARKit. Manufacturers need to start thinking about how their products will be viewed in these environments, as photos won’t suffice, so the parallel development of 3D models and interactive experiences are going to become an essential part of the development and marketing pipeline for many future product launches.”

The shape of the future is up for grabs but what’s certain is we won’t need to leave the house to touch it. So get ready to strap on your headset, grab your controllers and start exploring.

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