Allison Crank says her virtual reality shopping centre was created in response to the decline of real-life retail spaces and the rise of online shopping.
The development of virtual reality tech like the Microsoft Hololens will revolutionise stores and design, she says.
“The thesis was both a research project which led into a design proposal. I researched the evolution of shopping, urbanism and architecture starting with the Greek agora, where public life arose from the boundaries of the marketplace, to the arcades of Paris, department stores, shopping malls and the experience economy. At the same time, I followed new emerging technologies, the rise of the Ludic Century and the gaming industry. I combined this research to bring us into the future, to a new form of urbanism where distinct elements such as virtual architecture, the third place, the role of the customer/designer, and performance combine,” she wrote on her website.
She calls her creation a stage for shoppers, turning retail spaces into “playgrounds or experiences”.
“The next form of the store or mall is no longer physical, but virtual, one where virtual reality and augmented reality will replace the physical mall or store,” Crank said.
With the help of a headset, users navigate through the digital shopping centre using a gaming controller, coming face to face with virtual people, animals and neon signs.
“You assume the role of Ms Smith, who is shopping for a chair in the Reality Theatre, from the moment she enters, to her interactions with the designer, who in this case is an Irish giraffe, to when she leaves,” she says. “I leave it up to the viewers to immerse themselves in the virtual stage and performance.”