UK falling behind in race for Virtual Reality, Worldpay research reveals

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As the Virtual Reality (VR) race heats up, research by Worldpay, a global leader in payments, has revealed the UK is lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to mass market acceptance of the technology.

According to the research, a mere 5% of UK shoppers surveyed have used VR technology in a retail setting, and just 35% of respondents would even consider buying a product using a VR or Augmented Reality (AR) device. These figures expose Britain as behind the curve when it comes to VR adoption, with surveyed consumers in Brazil and China more than twice as likely to shop within a VR world as UK-based shoppers.

The cost of VR technology is one of the biggest barriers to adoption for two thirds of those surveyed. However, security is also a key issue, with 43% of consumers concerned with the level of security offered within a virtual environment.

Nevertheless, nearly one third of Brits believe that VR is the future of shopping, and 58% of respondents expressed interest in the broader used of the technology in retail, for example trying on an item of clothing in a virtual store. Confident that VR will live up to the hype, 40% of respondents believe that VR technology will become as popular as smartphones.

Commenting on the findings, Nick Telford-Reed, Director of Technology Innovation at Worldpay said: “Although consumer appetite for VR is growing, there is a long way to go before the technology enters the mainstream in the UK. Consumers are sceptical of the technology, particularly when it comes to storing sensitive information, such as payment details, within a virtual world. The security concerns highlighted by our research are nothing new. It’s not that long since many were wary of shopping online or using mobile banking. What is needed is education on a global scale to stress that it can be possible to shop securely in a virtual world.”

To help overcome the perceived security barrier, researchers at Worldpay are investigating how shoppers can pay using a credit or debit card while remaining immersed within a virtual environment. The global payments processer has created a proof of concept, which provides the same levels of convenience, and security that shoppers have in-store and online, without needing to leave the virtual world.

Developed in conjunction with production company INITION, the prototype design uses Host Card Emulation (HCE) to virtualise the purchasing process. The payment process uses EMV* technology. For payments under £30, the prototype works in the same way a contactless payment does – with a tap of the (virtual) card across a (virtual) card machine. For purchases over £30, Worldpay has created a technology called AirPIN. This first of its kind allows the consumer to see a range of numbers whilst immersed in the virtual world, and then collect the four numbers that make up their PIN, one by one, using their virtual controller.

Commenting on the proof of concept, Telford-Reed added: “Innovation is what drives us and our clients. As technology moves on, so do the needs of consumers. As a leading payments company, it is our responsibility to consider where the next generation of payments will need to take place. We have built this prototype to provide a seamless, secure payment option for consumers in a virtual world. The benefits for merchants experimenting with virtual and augmented reality could be significant. While it is very early stages in its development, we believe that the sky is the limit when it comes to the industries that will find this technology useful. As more companies experiment with VR/AR in their endeavour to drive higher customer engagement, they need to consider if VR technology can support purchases as well. Whatever sales channel, it’s vital to make the payment process both slick and secure for customers. A compelling, immersive and seamless VR experience may even have the capability to increase sales.”

* EMV stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa, and is a global standard for credit and debit cards that uses computer chips to authenticate (and secure) chip-card transactions.