This free application and service on the PlayStation Network allows you access to a three-dimensional world which you can wander round, interact with objects, and communicate in real time with other PS/3 users who have also entered this world.
I think that the vivid detail and sense of presence, especially when viewed on an HD screen, is the most compelling 3D world I've yet seen. It's also easy to move around using the standard game controller.
It's made me think more about whether Tesco should have a 3D grocery superstore within a virtual world. Until I saw P@H, I had found 3D worlds such as the well-known Second Life rather flat and cartoon-like, and a Tesco presence would not be the immersive experience I was seeking.
Having a Tesco presence in the more graphically intense World of Warcraft would be fun if ever it were allowed. However, slaughtering dark wraiths and ghouls to gain clubcard points would probably not fit in with our brand (thank goodness someone else is accountable for business decisions round here!).
Far more interesting is the number of customers who ask me if we will provide a virtual 3D grocery superstore, whether in a virtual world or on our web site. I have chatted with many customers on the subject, so I could gain more understanding of what they are looking for.
For many, their point of view is:
- The shopping experience would be more like bricks and mortar grocery shopping, so the move to online shopping would be easier to comprehend. The current online list-based product-search system is a very different experience and can be a learning curve.
- Having other real customers in the virtual store (appearing as what the virtual world builders call 'avatars') would allow for social networking and cater for those who enjoy the social interaction of physical shopping.
- 'Expert' avatars could be on hand to interact with, even if they were computer driven.
- Shopping for groceries would be more fun.
- Can the customer's computer cope with the graphical and network broadband intensity of a 3D virtual store?
- Grocery shopping online is all about speed and convenience. Would traversing a 3D store slow customers down? Is there a point about taking a long time to shop online that starts to compare, timewise, with jumping in the car and going to the shops?
- Playstation@Home and Second Life are different and incompatible. So how many 3D stores do we build?!
- If we allow customers to see each other in the virtual Tesco, could we end up with our customers having to barge past virtual dissenters demonstrating in the aisles, or being engaged in flirtatious conversation by someone when trying to get on with the shopping?! On the other hand, would you prefer the store to yourself - a cavernous Tesco Extra in which you wander through its great aisles alone?
My attitude is similar another great application online, BBC iPlayer. I can watch iPlayer on my PC, Mac, and Sony PlayStation/3 without technical considerations getting in the way (from my 'customer' perception) - it just works. Perfect - now let's try it with Tesco grocery.
It goes back to the foundation we are laying down - the Application Programming Interface (API) , now running in preview mode, which will allow us (and others) to create applications that will try out new ideas.
So, I'm very glad to say that one developer has contacted me to say that they are creating a 3D Tesco superstore using the API. When it's ready, I'll show it to you.