As retailers adopt VR/AR offerings, Shape Immersive expects to staff up
Credit: Shape Immersive

As retailers adopt VR/AR offerings, Shape Immersive expects to staff up

The Vancouver company allows you to pick up and examine items as if you were in the store

Dan Burgar doesn’t think brick-and-mortar retail will ever disappear. But long before the COVID-19 pandemic furthered Amazon.com’s devastation of traditional business practices, Burgar was arguing that retail would be one of the many sectors disrupted by virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR).

Having worked at various local tech companies, the Vancouver native became enamoured with this burgeoning industry and founded the city’s VR/AR Association in 2016. (According to that group, Vancouver is now the second-largest VR/AR ecosystem in the world—behind Silicon Valley, unsurprisingly.) Burgar, who’s been a leading voice for the technology in B.C., launched his own company, Shape Immersive, a few years later.

Shape’s goal is to disrupt and transform the way retailers think, he says. “Right now with COVID, people aren’t able to go into physical locations to view products, so we’re essentially giving the potential customer the ability to shop in 3D at home.”

To that end, Shape has partnered with fashion brands like Nike and Mulberry to help customers visualize products without seeing them in person. “We try to dig into the brands’ core focus and how we can help them envision their road map within 3D and VR/AR,” Burgar explains. “These companies are realizing quickly that they need to engage a bit more deeply with consumers in this post-pandemic world.”

No wonder Burgar expects the next few years to be fertile for VR/AR. As a sign of this coming expansion, he points to a report by U.S. firm Global Market Insights that worldwide spending by retailers on AR visualization will hit US$50 billion by 2024. There’s also the rumoured 2022 release of Apple’s VR glasses.

“That’s going to change the game,” Burgar says of the latter. “Apple takes the wait-and-see approach; they don’t tend to jump right into being leaders or innovators at the start. They always jump in when they’re ready and when they have something that can completely shift the game, and we’re all waiting for that.”

He also believes that his own company, which has about 20 staff, will see rapid growth soon. “We expect to be on a major hiring spree,” Burgar says. “Our 3D development team and artists will need to increase as, over the next six to 12 months, everything on the retail technology side starts exploding.”