Walmart over the next few weeks will be bringing 50-foot tractor-trailers to the parking lots of some of its stores to let customers experience DreamWorks Animation's "How to Train Your Dragon" using virtual reality technology.
Wearing a VR headset and sitting in VR-powered chairs, users will be able to see and feel — and even smell — like they are in the DreamWorks film.
This is just the first application by Walmart of Spatial&, a VR tech company that's been growing in stealth mode for the past year under Walmart's incubator Store No. 8. Spatial& is notably the second company officially launched out of Store No. 8, after Jetblack, a text-to-order service currently being tested in New York.
Walmart has big plans for VR. To date, it's been using VR headsets in its training academies for employees to let them experience what it might be like to work a busy Black Friday shift in Walmart stores, for example. With Spatial&, the company could bring more VR into stores for shoppers to experience for themselves.
"We are looking at what we believe will be transformational for the retail customer experience," Katie Finnegan, CEO of Spatial&, told CNBC. "We want to ... move the market."
Finnegan said the VR trailers can work in many ways, giving shoppers an immersive experience where they can test out camping gear, for example, or visit the vineyard where Walmart's wine is sourced, she said.
Then, as more items are purchased online, Walmart can start to think about other ways to use its real estate — including adding VR — Finnegan said, aspirationally. "The square footage opens up a lot of possibilities. ... This 100,000-square-foot box can really be transformed into a place for entertainment, experiences and community building."
"I think it's a viable reality in the five- to seven-year time horizon," she said.
The verdict is still out on how shoppers are responding to technology like VR headsets in stores. Macy's is another company that's been testing VR as a way to look at and purchase larger furniture pieces.
Only 23 percent of people said they wanted to use some sort of VR device when shopping, according to a survey of 1,200 consumers and 400 retail executives by Oracle NetSuite in partnership with Wakefield Research and retail consulting firm The Retail Doctor. They cared more about self-checkout kiosks.
The "How to Train Your Dragon" experience will be at these Walmart stores from Feb. 15 to April 9:
- Burbank, California (1301 N. Victory Place) — Feb. 15-16
- Pico Rivera, California (8500 Washington Blvd.) — Feb. 17-19
- Anaheim, California (440 Euclid St.) — Feb. 22-23
- San Bernardino, California (4001 Hallmark Parkway) — Feb. 24-26
- Las Vegas, Nevada (5200 S. Fort Apache Road) — March 1-2
- North Las Vegas, Nevada (6464 N. Decatur Blvd.) — March 3-5
- Glendale, Arizona (5010 N. 95th Ave.) — March 8-9
- Gilbert, Arizona (2501 S. Market St.) — March 10-12
- San Antonio, Texas (8923 W. Military Drive) — March 15-16
- New Braunfels, Texas (1209 S. Interstate 35) — March 17-19
- Grand Prairie, Texas (2225 I-20) — March 22-23
- Allen, Texas (730 W. Exchange Parkway) — March 24-26
- Sugar Land, Texas (345 Highway 6) — March 29-30
- Katy, Texas (1313 N. Fry Road) — March 31-April 2
- Rogers, Arkansas (4208 S. Pleasant Crossing Blvd.) — April 5-6
- Bentonville, Arkansas (406 S. Walton Blvd.) — April 7-9
Disclosure: CNBC's parent company NBCUniversal is owned by Comcast, which purchased DreamWorks Animation.