7 ways VR and augmented reality transform payments

As virtual reality and augmented reality devices become increasingly affordable and available to consumers, banks and payment companies have more opportunities to engage their customers in virtual worlds.

The efforts that financial services companies and retailers are making in VR and AR today are experimental, but make the most of a technology in its early phases. And as VR and AR mature, new possibilities open up for customer interaction in a virtual space.

This item is compiled from reporting by PaymentsSource writers including John Adams, Kate Fitzgerald, David Heun and Michael Moeser. Click the links in each item to read more.

TD uses VR to teach finance, bitcoin and mobile
Oculus Go users
Attendees wear virtual reality headsets during an Uber Technologies Inc.'s demonstration at the Uber Elevated Asia Pacific Expo event in Tokyo, Japan, on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018. Uber is making 'big, bold bets' in flying cars, said the company's chief operating officer Barney Harford during the event. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg
TD Ameritrade's new virtual reality experience, an immersive video viewable through Facebook's Oculus Go headset, feels more like stepping onto a Disney ride than going into a virtual world. And that's probably the ideal approach for the current state of VR adoption.

The Oculus Go is a $200 standalone headset that's better suited for media consumption than for truly immersive experiences, and its apps provide a simple taste of what the technology can do. TD Ameritrade didn't try to push the limits of the technology — which relies on smartphone components under the hood — beyond what it was designed to do.

The closest comparison is Disney's Soarin, a popular theme park ride that uses a massive video screen to simulate the experience of hang gliding through the skies of California. Though TD's experience starts at street level to explain the inner workings of Wall Street, it eventually takes a helicopter's view of Silicon Valley before landing the viewer inside a bitcoin mining operation. A narrator explains the surroundings, while facts appear in a style reminiscent of VH1's "Pop Up Video."
Fidelity tests a virtual agent
HTC Vive user
A customer wears a HTC Corp. Vive virtual reality (VR) headset and operates hand controllers during a mixed reality (MR) green screen experience at the House of VR lounge in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. The House of VR is a for-rent event space that offers a virtual reality experience across various platforms from gaming and entertainment, to art and meditation. Photographer: James MacDonald/Bloomberg
Fidelity Investments has demonstrated a VR "agent" named Cora that can answer questions about stocks, but this is still a prototype.

Built using Amazon Web Services' VR application Sumerian, Cora can answer questions on stock performance, pull up company charts, and answer questions on how a company is doing. A client can verbally ask Cora questions in a VR chat room. Cora is a prototype, and the VR/AR employee training programs are in the pilot stage.

Other use cases for VR involve gauging a client’s appetite for risk by simulating market downturns and offering visuals on how that may play out in their lives.

In addition, VR can be used to train new advisors by simulating client meetings and different, challenging scenarios.
RBC uses AR to make e-gifting more personal
RBC sign
Signage is displayed outside of a Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) branch during the company's annual general meeting in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on Thursday, April 6, 2017. RBC Chief Executive Officer David urged lawmakers to coordinate interventions and act quickly to cool housing markets, particularly in Toronto and Vancouver. Photographer: Cole Burston/Bloomberg
The Royal Bank of Canada is integrating augmented reality — a technology that overlays a digital interface over the real world — into peer-to-peer payments and digital gifting. RBC eGift, which is currently available in the App Store, lets users send money via Interac and virtual gift cards. Though RBC also uses AR in its banking app to help customers find ATMs, the eGift app is meant to be available as a separate experience.

“The reason that we do it in an app is that we want to make sure that we provide the best experience as possible for the consumer,” said Eddy Ortiz, RBC's vice president of innovation and solution acceleration. “Imagine if I had a great experience sending it, but when you receive it you’re not able to visualize it in the same way or it doesn’t work. We have to take care it end to end.”

As VR and AR technologies have evolved, they have become increasingly social. Oculus, one of the companies at the forefront of consumer VR, is a unit of Facebook, and has integrated the social network with many of its VR apps. For example, consumers watching a concert or comedy show in VR on the Oculus Venues app can link their Facebook account and find out which of their virtual seatmates share the same interests.

In RBC's case, the AR gifting technology is meant to be used face-to-face, adding a personal experience to the somewhat impersonal practice of sending a digital gift card.

"It basically allows you to be immersed and put a lot of thought behind what you’re doing,” Ortiz said. “I can think about it as: 'Hey Siri send my wife $100 for our anniversary' or something, she’s going to be upset.”
Mirror, mirror on the wall — how much should I pay for this shawl?
oak labs payment mirror
Last year, Mastercard set up a temporary store with internet-connected windows and mirrors enabling consumers to explore and pay for fashion items with their smartphones.

The Next Big Thing Concept Shop opened in Manhattan in partnership with Hearst Communications’ monthly fashion magazine Marie Claire, showcasing interactive shopping tools of the future.

The shop featured “smart mirrors” from Oak Labs. These high-tech mirrors suggest additional accessories for consumers to model, and another mirror designed for skincare can recommend products.
Payscout puts VR shopping in an app
Payscout VR Commerce app
Merchant processor Payscout launched a VR Commerce app for Google Cardboard last year that features Visa Checkout built into its menu.

The Payscout VR Commerce app went live with Los Angeles-based e-commerce retailer Body Language Sportswear, enabling shoppers who use a Google Cardboard headset to capture a 360-degree video view of merchandise.

Users peruse the catalog of merchandise and make selections through eye motions via the headset, and use the same approach to check out.

“We’ve seen many prototypes and simulations of VR shopping, but this is the first time anyone can experience (immediate) purchases using VR technology,” said Cleveland Brown, Payscout’s CEO, who demonstrated the app during a panel discussion about virtual reality at Money20/20 in Copenhagen last year.
Samsung invests in VR fintech
Samsung Gear VR
An attendee demonstrates a Samsung Electronics Co. Gear VR Innovator Edition virtual reality (VR) device during the South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas, U.S., on Friday, March 13, 2015. The SXSW conferences and festivals converge original music, independent films, and emerging technologies while fostering creative and professional growth. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
Samsung is one of the strongest proponents of consumer VR, having offered its own Gear VR headset for Samsung smartphones for years. In early 2017, it launched a $150 million venture capital investment fund to expand its partnerships and collaborations with fintech startups with a focus on virtual reality, artificial intelligence and the internet of things.

The Samsung NEXT Fund targets pre-Seed to Series B investments, allowing the electronics giant to grow its innovation platform by providing entrepreneurs with funding, resources and expertise.

At the time of the announcement, the fund had already contributed financial support to startups Converge Industries, Dashbot, Entry Point VR, Filament, Intezer, LiquidSky, Otto Radio, 2Sens, SafeDK and Virtru.
France's Casino grocery adds in-store AR for online shoppers
The facade of a Casino supermarket in the 20th Arrondissement of Paris, France, Thursday, March 16, 2006 Photographer: Owen Franken/Bloomberg News
The Le Casino 4 store — Casino's no-cashier concept store is on Franklin D. Roosevelt Avenue near the Champs-Elysees in Paris — has two ways to shop, one for in-store purchase and another for home delivery.

The home delivery shopping experience leverages a giant digital wall with product images that Casino calls “the Picking Wall.” This is where consumers shop for items from Casino's online grocery store and then can schedule delivery for later that evening. The second method, reported by Venturebeat, has consumers choosing from a curated selection of gourmet items in the store. The third floor will complement Casino’s online e-tail website, Cdiscount. This will additionally feature an augmented reality digital display geared to entice shoppers.