Circuit City will be opening a virtual store in the virtual IBM complex about to open up in the virtual universe known as Second Life. The subscription-based 3-D online world, which crossed the 1 million member mark in October, has a built-in economy which translates into real dollars subtracted from subscribers’ debit or credit accounts. The virtual Circuit City store, which opens to the public this week, will replicate a 3-D environment where the “avatars” that Second Life residents use to represent themselves can walk the aisles as they would in a real Circuit City location. Customers can pick up and examine items and then order them to be delivered to their real-world homes. Circuit City will also provide virtual tech support, allowing customers to view, how to fix or use their product in a 3-D environment. In another immersive endeavor, customers will be able to move around the furniture in a virtual living room to find where to best place their new HDTV or figure out what size television might best work for them, since the virtual room can have the same dimensions as their real home.
IBM is looking at this as only the beginning of a rollout of the 3-D Internet, working with other companies to further break down the barriers between services available on the Web and their real-world counterparts. The company sees potential for similar applications in commerce, government, healthcare and education.