Apple may be hatching plans to make shopping at the online Apple Store or iTunes a more immersive virtual experience, akin to wandering in the world of Second Life, a patent filing suggests.

The company has filed patent with the US Patent and Trademark office for an Enhanced Online Shopping Atmosphere, as originally noted by MacNN.

The patent basically describes an online shop in which different areas of what's available are depicted in a 3D space, in which customers can see goods for sale and, if they choose to do so, interact with other customers on the virtual shop floor.

There's other potential usages, the filing claims: "For example, if an author has been invited to participate in a live chat hosted by the Acme store, an icon of the book may appear in [a region] alerting customers (in all departments) that a special event is occurring."

The patent points out that a drawback of shopping online is that the "experience can feel sterile and isolating". The patent argues that shoppers looking at what's on offer in online stores are less likely to look around and window shop, so the creation of an immersive experience may help sell more goods.

The patent was originally filed in September 2006.