Alibaba launches Buy+ VR, AR at Maker Festival for Taobao e-tailers

Alibaba has dived into virtual and augmented reality - the technology behind the insanely popular Pokemon Go app - to help shops bridge the gap between the online and offline worlds.

The Chinese e-commerce giant's Buy+ virtual reality technology made its debut at the Taobao Maker Festival, an offline shopping event targeting millennial consumers, on Friday.

At the futuristic retail festival in Shanghai over the weekend, shoppers could wear an Alibaba VR headset while going on an online spree at 72 shops on Alibaba's Taobao e-tail platform. The headset allowed shoppers to view products such as clothing and fashion accessories on a model, with a 360-degree view, as well as look at the products in more detail than is possible on a regular PC.

A robot shopping guide was also available at the Maker Festival to help shoppers find the products best suited to their needs.


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Alibaba's foray into virtual, augmented and mixed reality drew on the company's "big data" technology that it had been working on for many years, the company's chief marketing officer Chris Tung told CNBC.

"Alibaba is a data technology company," he said. "We're just walking the talk," adding, "I think we have to, and we love to, play a key driver role to develop [the VR] market."

Tung explained that the company's trove of user-data helped it to better target its marketing on behalf of retailers on its platforms.

In March Alibaba announced it had opened a VR research laboratory called the GnomeMagic Lab, which was working on VR and AR technologies to help sellers on Alibaba platforms to build their own 3D product inventories, with a long-term goal of helping businesses set up entire VR stores.

Alibaba's e-commerce business is also working with Alibaba Pictures and Alibaba Music to develop VR content. Alibaba Pictures is an investor in Star Trek Beyond, the latest in the rebooted sci-fi franchise, which took just under $60 million to top the U.S. box office in its opening weekend.

Haze Fan contributed to this article.

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