Walmart has acquired virtual reality (VR) company Spatialand, which will act as the centerpiece of the retail giant's VR efforts. Spatialand makes software tools that let creators transform content into immersive VR experiences. The startup worked with Walmart’s technology incubator, Store No. 8, on a project last year, and has now been acquired by that group, according to a Store No. 8 blog post by Katie Finnegan, who has been overseeing the incubator and will serve as interim CEO of the new VR company. Spatialand's founder, Kim Cooper, will join as co-founder, along with Jeremy Welt, a VR strategy and product advisor. The team will be tasked with developing and exploring new products and uses of VR through immersive retail environments that can be incorporated by all facets of Walmart, online and offline. Financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed.
Total Retail's Take: This move by Walmart is somewhat surprising, especially with augmented reality, not VR, gaining popularity as the next-generation technology most likely to change shopping. But that's kind of the point. According to Recode, Finnegan said her group is focused on retail experiences that may not go mainstream for five years to 10 years, and she believes VR may fit into that bucket. She declined to offer specifics on what the Spatialand team will be looking to create at Walmart, and said the team’s work may not be revealed for 12 months to 18 months. The acquisition does seems to align nicely with other Store No. 8 projects, including a personal shopping service and an initiative to build a cashier-less store like Amazon Go. Store No. 8 was created to help Walmart develop new startups within the company, fostering relationships with entrepreneurs, particularly those in the fields of artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles and other emerging technologies.