The Layered Virtual Reality Commerce System (LaVRCS): Proposing an Immersive Web X.0 Framework for E-Commerce

The Layered Virtual Reality Commerce System (LaVRCS): Proposing an Immersive Web X.0 Framework for E-Commerce

Alan Rea (Western Michigan University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-384-5.ch009
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In this chapter, the author argues that virtual reality (VR) does have a place in e-commerce as a Web 2.0 application. However, VR is not ready to supplant standard e-commerce Web interfaces with a completely immersive VR environment. Rather, VRCommerce must rely on a mixed platform presentation to accommodate diverse levels of usability, technical feasibility, and user trust. The author proposes that e-commerce sites that want to implement VRCommerce offer at least three layers of interaction: a standard Web interface, embedded VR objects in a Web interface, and semi-immersive VR within an existing Web interface. This system is termed the Layered Virtual Reality Commerce System, or LaVRCS. This proposed LaVRCS framework can work in conjunction with Rich Internet Applications, Webtops, and other Web 2.0 applications to offer another avenue of interaction within the e-commerce realm. With adoption and development, LaVRCS will help propel e-commerce into the Web 3.0 realm and beyond.
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Individuals use the Web to search for information, communicate with friends and family, form social networks, and entertain themselves with a plethora of multimedia and interactive applications. Businesses rely on the Web to manage information and extend global communication, as well as market products and services. Although the Web has become integral within both business and personal contexts, Web 2.0 applications have the ability to extend our computing experiences beyond the standard “point and click” interface to which we have grown accustomed. This is especially important to businesses competing to attract new clients within the ever-changing digital landscape of global e-commerce.

E-Commerce Today

Businesses use the Web to market goods and services to people and other businesses. Consumers—businesses and people—increasingly look to the Web to provide choices and the means to make informed purchasing decisions. E-commerce transactions have grown faster than most predictions and continue to grow as more businesses offer and improve online offerings at a rate of over 19 percent growth each year (Loten, 2007). Businesses want to make their Websites easy to use and move people toward intended purchases (Cummins, 2002). Web usability experts work to simplify Web designs and usability so that potential customers find familiar navigation schemes and metaphors (e.g., the shopping cart) to simplify their purchases (van Duyne, et al., 2007).

Still, studies examine abandoned shopping carts, unsatisfied e-commerce users, and businesses that have failed online even though they offered quality products or services (Eastlick, et al, 2006; Chen & Rea, 2004). There must remain some elusive criteria that have not yet been met to create an environment in which satisfied Web users explore goods and services and complete e-commerce transactions. Not all businesses can model themselves after and expect the same profits, so we must ask what an e-commerce site can offer to first attract users, then make them comfortable using the site, create trust that the goods or services will be as promised, and ultimately make them secure in their decision to purchase.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Webtop: A Web desktop. Webtops are RIAs that offer a complete desktop experience delivered within a Web browser. One of the more popular Webtops is the Google application suite that provides word processing, spreadsheets, and e-mail. Webtops are still rudimentary in their offerings but intend to offer a complete desktop environment.

3D Web: This technology delivers three-dimensional objects and environments embedded within Web browsers. Using technology specifications, such as those put forth by the Web 3D working group, users can manipulate objects using Web browser plug-in technology. Web-based Virtual Reality is an extension of the 3D Web.

Virtual World: A complete representation of a physical realm. Most likely this world is populated by avatars representing players, as well as virtual representations of virtual world characters (bots). Virtual worlds can mimic environments we are familiar with, or populate worlds with completely different inhabitants and rules of nature (e.g. people can fly).

VRCommerce: E-commerce that uses virtual reality environments or 3D objects that allow customers to experience products and services before purchasing them. Popular examples include experiencing travel destinations before purchasing vacations and test-driving cars before visiting showrooms.

Rich Internet Application (RIA): RIAs provide limited desktop application functionality within a Web browser. Most RIAs require an additional technology beyond standard XHTML (e.g., Flash).

Virtual Reality: A complete simulation of reality. Virtual Reality (VR) can be an exact replica of the real world, a reality that is very different from that which is considered real, or perhaps an intense simulation or a situation (e.g., high cliff used to treat acrophobia).

X3D: A successor to VRML. The X3D file specification allows for additional 3D object extensions (e.g., CAD). It also allows for the integration of additional programming languages, such as Java for more expansive virtual environments delivered over the Web for more robust applications.

CAVE: The recursive acronym stands for Cave Automatic Virtual Environment. A CAVE is a room-sized cube where images are projected on three or all four of the surrounding walls. Images change and move according to the user's actions within the CAVE.

HMD: Head Mounted Display. By wearing a HMD, virtual reality users are presented with 3D stereoscopic images that mimic physical world perception. HMDs are one of the more common VR components used.

VRML: Virtual Reality Markup Language. A set of standards that governs a XML file markup language developed to display 3D interactive vector graphics and virtual environments on the Web.

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