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Boston-Based Company Bringing Virtual Reality To Online Shopping

BOSTON (CBS) – Online shopping is already quick and convenient. Now it's also on the brink of becoming interactive and extremely personalized and Boston-based retailer Wayfair wants to lead the way.

The company is determined to make virtual reality, real. They have been painstakingly creating 3D models of thousands of household items.

To create these models, each item is place on a turntable. Four cameras simultaneously snap about 150 photos from every angle as the item rotates.  A computer program then stitches all the images together. About two hours later the process is complete.

So far, Wayfair has created about 10,000 3D images of its products,  from a cute giraffe sculpture to coffee tables. They hope to convert their entire inventory of 7 million products into a virtual library within five years.

wayfair virtual reality
Wayfair is looking to make virtual reality a part of online shopping. (WBZ-TV)

By creating this virtual world, Wayfair is also looking to create a whole new way to browse and to buy.

"When you're spending a lot of money you really want to be confident that it is what you think it is and it fits in the space," explained Mike Festa of Wayfair.

Using the just-released Lenovo Phab 2 Pro, the WayfairView app allows users to drop a virtual product into any room and see if it fits. This is augmented reality similar to Pokémon Go, but with much more detail.

wayfair virtual reality
Online shoppers can use virtual reality to see what an item would look like in certain rooms. (WBZ-TV)

A virtual ottoman will actually sit on the floor and you can see if it's the same height as your couch or coffee table.

"So you get a sense of what you're looking to buy  in your physical space," explained Festa.

The Phab 2 Pro uses Google's new Tango technology. It doesn't just take a picture of your room, it digitally measures it. Festa is optimistic other devices will soon adopt the same technology.

But Wayfair isn't stopping with just one app. Customers using the Google Daydream virtual reality headset can leap right into the page of a catalog and take a virtual tour. The new Google headset will be available November 10th.

wayfair virtual reality
Virtual reality technology. (WBZ-TV)

And the new Oculus Rift headset won't be just for gamers. Shoppers can get in on the fun too by designing a virtual patio all with products sold by Wayfair, delivered by a virtual drone.

"We give them that advanced visualization without having to leave their house," explained Festa. "In the long term we thing virtual reality technology is going to enable people to be inspired, but also creative."

Expect to see more stores offering these types of hi-tech shopping experiences.  Ikea also has a virtual reality app. And at select Lowes stores customers can virtually design a new kitchen.

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