On a recent trip to Walmart, paper towels, milk and Easter candy were on the list. A ride on the back of a sharp-horned, fire-breathing dragon was not.
Yet here was a chance to get up close and personal with with Hiccup, Astrid and Toothless the Night Fury to explore the magical “Hidden World” of the recently-released third film in DreamWorks Animation’s How to Train Your Dragon trilogy.
Walmart is luring fans of the animated viking franchise into a unique virtual reality and retail experience, which begins in a tent rising up out of the parking lot and ends with a tour in a specially-branded gift shop full of character merch from the films. It was created by Spatial& (“spatial-and”), a Venice, California-based V-commerce startup acquired last year by Walmart’s retail incubator Store N°8. They used DreamWorks intellectual property, including the characters and the Hidden World backdrop, and wrote an original storyline. The virtual experience was created on Intel® Xeon®-powered Z by HP workstations to make them VR-ready — a massive technical feat. Walmart has used VR before to do things like train associates, but hasn’t done anything on this scale for customers.