Shopping site shows London's West End in 3DA virtual mix of Oxford Street and Facebook

08 December 2009

Near London 3D shopping website

The latest 3D shopping website is live and you can help test it.

The beta version of the Near London 3D shopping website covers only a small part of London’s West End, but lets you explore Oxford Street and Regent Street without the jostling, rain or pollution you get from pounding the pavements in real life.

Accessing the site requires a Facebook login. After joining the Facebook group (Near London User Group), Near Global will invite you to download the software. For those in London, discs will be available from Evening Standard distributors today.

Shopping in the West End – in 3D

Once you’ve got the software on your computer, you’re ready to zoom around the West End at a similar cycling-type speed to Google’s Street View. One click on a shop window moves you close enough to see what’s in it; clicking again takes you to the retailer’s website. Our free advice guide to shopping safely online tells you all you need to know about making an online purchase.

Currently the site only covers Oxford Street (from Oxford Circus to John Lewis), and Regent Street (from Oxford Circus to near Piccadilly Circus), but most stores located within those stretches are represented.

Near Global’s plan is that shops will pay a monthly fee to update their presences in the site at whatever time they choose. Although Near Global has chosen to avoid the human-like avatars of Second Life, you can see small patches of light where other users are.

Which? takes a look

Accessing this virtual West End via Facebook enables you to interact with your friends while shopping online in the usual ways offered by the social networking site. Although we found the interface rather clunky, having your friends there to debate what to buy in real-time adds another dimension to your shopping experience.

The shop windows are appealing enough to look at, being nearly photo-real, but the buildings make you feel you are in a late 1990s video game, despite the computer we were using having a significantly higher specification than Near Global’s minimum.

Near London will only run on PCs and has a minimum technical specification (Windows XP, Vista or 7, an Intel Pentium 4 processors, 1GB of RAM, or 2GB for Vista users, and a graphics card).

Which? RSS news and Twitter feeds

For daily consumer news, subscribe to the Which? news RSS feed. If you have an older web browser you may need to copy and paste into your newsreader. Find out more about RSS in the Which? guide to news feeds.

You can also follow WhichNews on Twitter for all the latest consumer news, or follow WhichTech for technology updates.