Photos: Lenovo's 3D virtual retail gaming engine

PC manufacturer Lenovo has unveiled an application that combines virtual world principles and retailing to create an interactive shopping experience.

The "eLounge" virtual store was developed by Nortel Networks and showcased at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The company calls the browser-based virtual world application web.alive', and is aiming it very much at the enterprise.

However, the 3D virtual world uses gaming technology from Epic Games called the Unreal Engine', which has been used as a basis for many first-person shooting games including Unreal Tournament, Gears of War and Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six.

With web.alive, shoppers are able to create personalised avatars that can walk around a 3D virtual store. They can browse products as well as interact with sales staff from around the world.

Other benefits Nortel is promoting include virtual product demonstrations, connected shopping communities and unique forms of customer service that reject the conventions of email and forums.

Nortel's Arn Hyndman said that Nortel was the first networking company to enter this space in a serious way.

He said: "Some of them [companies] have played with Second Life in a peripheral way, but none of them have their own technology or a way of making it real and useful for consumers or enterprises."

Below is the Lenovo virtual world application in action.