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Banking From an Oculus Rift? Google Glass-Clad Tellers? Wells Fargo Tests It Out

Banking From an Oculus Rift Google Glass Clad Tellers Wells Fargo Tests It Out Digits WSJ


During a product demonstration at Wells Fargo’s Digital Labs, employees showed off both the realistic and the unlikely. At times, it seemed as if Wells Fargo was trying to integrate banking into every hot new technology, whether it was practical or not. One idea, for example: Customers could use an Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset to virtually walk into a bank branch and talk to a teller. Or, wearing Google Glass, customers could use the Wells Fargo app to scan products in a store to see whether the items fit into their monthly budget.

In the earlier Google Glass scenario, customers would opt-in to authenticate themselves for facial recognition. But it’s unclear whether most people would be comfortable with their face being scanned, or whether such technology will ever be accurate enough for a bank to adopt it.

Some of the more probable–and rather useful–ideas involved incorporating video-chatting features into mobile apps so customers can talk remotely to bankers from their phones or connected devices. One time-saving idea included “pre-checking in” via a mobile app to inform the bank of your plans before arriving. Wells Fargo also showed off a connected-car app that would let drivers use voice commands to pay tolls or deposit checks.

So how likely is it that you’ll be banking from your car or a virtual-reality headset? Wells Fargo says that the company will be piloting the mobile banking ideas this year at some of its 6,000 branches across the U.S. The more pie-in-the-sky ideas are three to five years out and depend on wider consumer adoption, privacy norms, and comfort levels with the technology, said Jim Smith, an executive vice president who heads the company’s virtual channels business.

“We’ll have to see how society reacts,” Smith said. “When we see a trend, we want to be ready.”

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