Oxford High Street

A new report suggests that by 2050 virtual reality, AI and augmented reality will totally disrupt the shopping experience.

Back in the early 1990s, a report did the rounds predicting that within 15 years, online shopping would have had such a radical effect on retail that it would have been the equivalent of a bomb going off in every high street across the country.

Maybe we can now say that the report had some truth in it, but the timing was out.

Now the Future of shopping report has predicted that by 2050 we will do our shopping via virtual reality, wearing head sets that gauge our mood and simulate the instore experience, but to fit our mood. Virtual reality will also extend the shopping experience, for example, by taking us to see a coca farm – within the ether of course – to support our experience at a coffee shop.

They also forecast AI assistants that will know what products we want before we do, and holographic fashion shows.

Russell Freeman, the chief technology officer at digital marketing agency Holition, co-wrote the report. He said: “It's ironic that the fashion industry is renowned for its innovation, yet the way we shop is so old fashioned. From having to use a changing room, to being offered limited space in a shop, the whole experience is generic.”

One thing is for sure, virtual reality, AI and augmented reality will change shopping.

But the timing may be quite different in the short run, as for by 2050, well, by then technology will have changed the world so completely, that quite frankly all bets are off.

Virtual reality will disrupt shopping before this decade is out. And it will do so very rapidly. It will not take until 2050 for it to have totally changed shopping, it will happen much sooner. What we don’t yet know is how consumers may react, shopping is as much a social experience as a practical one. They may react against the idea of doing all their shopping from within headsets.

Augmented reality may have a bigger impact because this will not do away with the need to physically go out shopping, but will enhance the experience by providing us with supporting information.

As for AI, we are getting into the realms of science fiction becoming real. The day AI knows us better than we do is the day when, as a species, we start to change, we may become what Yuval Noah Harari calls Homo Deus. Who knows what that will entail.

Returning to Russel Freeman, he said: “The future of shopping offers personalised experiences for people, dependent on their taste and mood and at Holition we see it as the humanising of technology. Augmented reality, virtual reality, drone delivery and artificial intelligence will completely change the way we shop. It's an exciting time - on the cusp of a revolution.”