The high church of middle England, that great bastion to tasteful consumerism that is John Lewis' flagship department store on Oxford Street in London, is now available to poke around online.
The entire seven-storey shop, from kitchen gadgets in the basement to mahoosive tellies on the fifth floor, has been exhaustively documented in over 500 360-degree panoramic photos and uploaded to Google Street View.
You can start your tour on the ground floor -- perfumes, cosmetics -- from this link, or wander in off the online street. There's a virtual lift at the top left to take you up and down, and you can walk around using the arrow keys and change your view using W, A, S and D, or clicking and dragging on the mouse. It's like a version of Doom where you're middle aged and looking for a Christmas present.
It's not quite a virtual store, in that you can't buy anything directly from the shelves in front of you. The idea is that you familiarise yourself with the layout of the shop so you can head directly to the thing you want to buy and spend less time bumping into other less well-prepared shoppers.
Wandering the well-lit virtual aisles of the home entertainment department is fun too, checking out all the speaker systems and huge TVs, some of which are so big the fisheye lens has distorted their clean lines. Zoom in using the + key and you can even see prices -- although these may well have changed by the time you're really walking around the shop.
Ideal Insight, the company that took the photos and stuck them on Google, says John Lewis is the first major department store in the world to be opened up in this way.
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