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​As shopping in a virtual reality becomes less of a future scenario, merchants will face the question of what constitutes a seamless payment experience in a parallel universe. By exploring emerging technologies such as blockchain and biometrics, new solutions could allow consumers to stay immersed even at the check-out. The technology is there, the question is how far consumers are prepared to go.

​Getting hold of this autumn's must-read has been a digital expedition for many readers for a while now. In the near future, consumers could be able to go to a virtual bookstore, pick a book and pay for it with their virtual payment card in an immersive digital world.


The vision of virtual reality is not new, but in recent years technological advances means it is now on the verge of becoming part of many people's everyday lives. Today, consumers are able to choose between a number of virtual reality (VR) headsets that offer their users a surprisingly strong sensation of entering another dimension which is still responsive. Although not a household item yet, VR headsets are gaining momentum, inspiring e-merchants to consider building web shops in a virtual reality in which VR glasses will allow consumers to browse the shelves for the best product.


Paying without breaking the illusion

To avoid breaking the illusion of shopping in a parallel universe, even when it is time to get out one's wallet, Nets has developed a proof of concept that will enable transactions in a virtual world without obstructing the user experience. Seemingly simple, the proof of concept is built on state-of-the-art technology such as blockchain and biometrics – technologies far beyond those in everyday use today.


"We don't think VR stores will be a reality in the first couple of years, but they will come at some point. Our challenge is to figure out how to pay seamlessly in such a store. In theory, you could pay with a fingerprint, or with biometrics by having your picture taken. We are able to build it all - but we'll have to figure out how far the users are ready to go -  and meet them there," says Avishay Gaziel, VP Innovation at Nets.


Pay with your face

Consumers in the virtual mock-up bookstore will be able to pay by pairing their smartphone or contactless Dankort with the NFC-chip which both of them contain. Another method would be to pay by finger, which is another proof-of-concept developed in the lab based on a happy match of  Hitachi's finger vein scan technology and Nets' Dankort app, allowing consumers to authenticate a payment by use of biometrics.  


The identification of users could be based on a blockchain solution which will make tampering with data in the shared ledger impossible.


With transactions taking place in a virtual reality, new challenges arise which the developers at Nets try to understand and accommodate:


"There may be no business case right now, but we need to learn about the technology to find the next moonshots. We could end up building a whole new virtual reality store centred on payment technology, selling entire digital supermarkets in which small and medium-sized merchants could purchase virtual shelf space and payment technology in a package solution. We don't know, but we have to try to understand the future and the opportunities it will bring," says Avishay Gaziel.




Innovation is serious business

In 2016, Nets launched its Digital Lab which prototyped and built proofs of concept in transformative and emerging technologies such as IoT, AI, biometrics, blockchain, VR etc. The lab’s work has led to a range of innovative ideas emerging into new mobile apps, digital payment services and fintech partnerships. Since the formation of the lab, it has evolved and will form the backbone of the independent innovation company, Smart Payments, established by Nets in September 2017. Smart Payments will be an important milestone in the company’s efforts to take its innovation and business development to the next level.