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Store adds new dimension to online shopping

Specialty retailer Brookstone opens 3D store that combines Second Life-like visual experience with real merchandise customers can buy. Images: 3D online shopping at Brookstone

Consumers looking to avoid crowded malls and the tedium of online shopping can now shop in a virtual three-dimensional store.

Specialty retailer Brookstone opened the virtual doors to its 3D store, which combines a Second Life-like visual experience with real merchandise customers can buy.

"The 3D brings that fun part of shopping back. When you go into a physical store, there is that sort of energy around 'what am I going to find?' and there's always that discovery process," Greg Sweeney, a vice president at Brookstone, said in an interview.

The virtual store replicates the look and layout of a real store. Customers can move through the aisles and browse and zoom on products using a mouse and keyboard. Detailed information is available by stopping in front of an item.

"We think it really appeals to a younger audience for us, a demographic probably 25 to 40...because of the almost gaming nature of it," said Sweeney.

Certainly those adept at navigating through a virtual world will find the environment familiar. For new users, it will take some getting used to, Sweeney added.

Brookstone.com will still offer its wares in the conventional way, but offers the 3D store as an alternative.

"It really helps the evolution of the Internet shopping experience," Sweeney said.

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