eBay has launched a virtual reality department store in partnership with Australian retailer Myer that enables consumers to explore and shop products merely by using their eyes.

Rather than a replica of an actual store itself, the experience is almost like stepping inside the internet; a networked connection of 3D products and their descriptions floating in the ether. The user is able to navigate and select which items they want to find out more information about as well as add to basket, by hovering over them with their eyes for a certain number of seconds.

This “Sight Search” technology was developed by eBay in a bid to make the VR shopping experience as straightforward and fast as possible, reports Mashable. Through use, the company also intends to gain data on consumer preferences and behaviours that will help inform the future development of the platform, as well as rules around how best to push product in such a new format.


At this point, the app, which works with headsets including Samsung’s Gear VR, as well as Google Cardboard (of which eBay and Myer are offering 20,000 of their branded “shopticals” version for free), doesn’t win in the highly immersive shopping experience stakes, as a result. But it does speak to what’s possible through such virtual technologies today as well as the increasing influence algorithms are having on the way content is surfaced to users.

Making the experience as tailored as possible to individuals is part and parcel of this initiative from the off – the more consumers select and reject items, the more the VR store learns and adapts to what it thinks they might like, for instance. “What if you could enter a department store that’s just for you – one that has learned about you, adapted to what you like to shop for, and in time it’s personalised its product selections just for you?” questions the video supporting the launch (as below).

At this point in time, the user has to take off the headset and complete transactions via the eBay mobile app on their phones, but the team is aiming to integrate this into the VR itself the future. It’s also exploring how a single user can bring a friend into the experience with them.

Steve Brennen, senior director of marketing and retail innovation at eBay, commented: “Is this the next future of the retail experience? We’re kind of believing now that it could be.”