A recent patent filing by Apple Inc. entitled Enhancing Online Shopping Atmosphere indicates that Steve Jobs' next BOOM could involve a hat tip to virtual worlds like Second Life. According to the filing, Apple is considering a more interactive visual representation of its online store complete with changing weather and avatars. Let the griefer brainstorming session begin.
The Apple patent at its core relates to improving the online shopping experience. While the company lauds online shopping in its filing, it also criticises the medium's inability to offer consumers a truly interactive experience, calling it "sterile and isolating." (Uh, isn't the solitary, crowd-bypassing characteristic of online shopping part of its appeal?)
The Apple filing goes on to say that isolated, unhappy customers are more apt to be non-paying customers. However, if you provide them with "sunny" shopping experiences and virtual interactivity with Apple avatars, they might be more likely to come away with a positive impression of online shopping. Customers would also receive their own avatars, a la Second Life, and would be branded with letters to show their level of familiarity with Apple products. N is for New Users, or "newbies," and E is for Experts, or the entire Apple-loving Gizmodo staff.
There are still a lot of unknowns regarding the filing. Add to that the fact that most Apple patents never see the light of day. As MacNN expertly points out, this could also be a reincarnated eWorld, Apple's ill-fated online service launched—and then un-launched—in 2004.
If the Apple Store does go virtual, however, our question for Steve this afternoon is pretty straightforward: How will the Genius Bar respond to a bouncing penis-filled griefer attack? [MacNN]