Search Results for: kinect

2013.19 | opentable | illumiroom-kinect | concierge

opentableOpentable – If you haven’t stumbled on Opentable yet, you should definitely check it out and get it on your mobile.  Anyone can book a table at a restaurant with a PC or mobile device.  It does one thing very simply and it works.  And it does it for a fee and makes money.   I was reminded of this recently by a Gizmodo article that highlights the benefits very well.  Get it on your device.  The more of us use it, the more restaurants will subscribe to it.

In fact, if the OpenTable team are taking recommendations, how incredible would it be if this appointment making service was extended to hair stylists, mechanics, and even doctors and dentists?  Why am I still phoning for an appointment for anything?  All consumers should be able to pick an appointment and have it added to their mobile calendar  just like OpenTable.  OpenTable has the platform; all that would be needed is some branding to suit the other scheduling scenarios.  Reskin the app, get an iPad out to the sites – or even better, an API into their appointment systems – and we would never have to call again.

Even if that doesn’t happen, retailers and consumer facing organizations of all sorts should take note and make appointments easier.  Whoever can reduce the friction of making an appointment first will get an uptick in business.

Illumiroom-KinectkinectMicrosoft has made some announcements over the past month that indicate that their Illumiroom concept might actually see the light of day.  While Illumiroom is touted as a gaming platform, we all now that the big players in pizza automatically put an ordering solution on every console or device to be used by late night snacking gamers.  Expect the pizza team to have us all in an old school pizzeria within days of release.  That in turn should certainly drive some forward looking retailers to try some new ideas with Illumiroom in a concept store or even with an online store that will work with Xbox One.  It’s just another channel after all.

Even better, there were lots of Kinect hacks for real life shopping solutions, and with the release of Xbox One, the Kinect team indicated that the new Kinect will be released for Windows platforms.  This announcement means that solutions in stores now have access to a very cost effective visual tracking platform.  I would expect this module to be taken advantage of in a number of ways.  While novel attention getters like virtual dressing rooms are part of it, the more practical side of traffic counting and loss prevention could certainly leverage Kinect solutions.

waitroseConcierge @ Waitrose – UK based grocer Waitrose has indicated that they are going to add concierge style desks at the front of 100 their stores.  These desks will provide access to tablets to assist with online ordering, as well as some special services like giftwrapping and dry cleaning.  One would suppose that the services will expand over time.

At first glance, this does not sound like a significant change nor an earth shattering alteration in the lives of stores as we know them.  After all, it seems there have always been catalog counters at stores.  What I believe is different here is the recognition that these sort of desks are more likely to become a crucial hub of a retail store than a dusty catalog desk in the corner.  Here’s just a few reasons why:

  • With hubs like this retailers have a better chance of capturing sales that might be lost due to out of stock, by making it obvious where to go for help and providing a mechanism where you can order online to buy what you want right now via various options (buy now, ship to home | have item reserved at other store | pick another viable alternative item with input from customer service).
  • Store associates at the desk ensure that guests that are not technologically inclined can obtain assistance and ‘talk to a person’ as a significant percent of the buying population choose to do instead of using a traditional ordering screen on their own.
  • If customers wish to place an order online as they would from a traditional kiosk, the tablet is there for them to use.
  • Store associates at the desk can take the opportunity to show the less technically inclined how simple and useful it is to shop from a tablet exactly as they could at home, making them comfortable enough to do so on their own they don’t even have to visit the desk or even the store in future.
  • Stores provide an advantage over etailers  in that you could go pick up an item NOW.  If it isn’t easy to pick up that item, or the system doesn’t work, then the advantage over etailers is gone.  Making pickups simple and obvious ensures the advantage stays.  Having those desks covered by knowledgeable people will help hold together any bumps or errors with transactions as well.

Fundamentally what excites me about the implementation of these desks is that they involve a combination of operations, technology and forward thinking.  Too often technology is stuck into a store as an afterthought.  It’s important to be certain that there are benefits to the store, to the customers and to the retailer for any solution.  If all of the pieces are working together, the opportunities for success are much greater.

These desks are a recognition that shopping patterns are emerging and instead of giving everyone tablets, or changing a policy at head office, Waitrose have made this into a strategic plan that takes into account the situation, the customers and how best to serve their changing needs and expectations.  Expect to see more of this sort of structure change in stores.  These same thoughts can already be seen at Best Buy Canada.  Smart retailers will emulate them.

2013.28 | thirdlove | ubi | ikea ar


thirdlove – Fit is more important than ever with online clothing purchases.  A trusted fit can drive more return sales and loyal clients.  Driven by technology under development by Nasa scientists, a soon to be released app now in beta from lingerie company thirdlove will allow women to size themselves for a bra with just two selfies in a tank top.  It would seem logical that if images can be used to build sizes for undergarments that the next progression could be the capability of capturing sizes of for other apparel with images.  Such a solution would be a valuable addition to any retailer’s app or website.

ubi – Make any surface a touchscreen with a little help from ubi interactive.  All that is needed is a windows 8 pc, a kinect, a projector, and the ubi app.

For $149 and some off the shelf components, retailers are free to enable some unique customer experiences in store.  For those willing to invest in the enterprise version of the app, it’s even possible to do multi-touch apps on 100 inch display.

Screen Shot 2013-08-25 at 10.14.24 PM

With the release of the kinect, interactive experiences become cost effective and relatively easy to implement.  Software could now be used to redesign huge areas of stores very quickly.  Instead of repainting, or sending out signage, messaging, planograms and store display instructions to stores for staff to implement, entire areas of the store could be redesigned with a software update distributed to the store and the repositioning of projectors on tracks on the ceiling to great effect.  With the increasing integration of technology into our lives, these unique experiences, if built to address a target clientele, can drive more traffic and more business.

ikea 2014 catalog app

ikea augmented reality – The 2014 catalog app from Ikea lets consumers see how furniture will look in their home environment by overlaying images of the products over their camera.  The app cleverly uses the size of the paper ikea catalog to get the scale of the image on which the product is placed.  While the Lowe’s Canada app from 2012 pioneered this sort of application by letting clients look at the details of a refrigerator and washer, this is an even better use of the technology.  Taking uncertainty out of the purchase by letting clients see the room with the product are more likely to make the purchase, and may even do so online.

Next step: How about including the Ikea collection in virtual staging (via Spark 213). What better way to capture potential furniture sales than to show potential home buyers what their new homes would look like fully furnished in the latest home fashions from Sweden?

2013.13 | Immersive Experiences via Gaming Tech

Screen Shot 2013-04-02 at 10.35.26 PMOculus Rift – Gamers are in for an upgrade of the virtual reality sort thanks to the Oculus Rift.   This Kickstarter driven set of head tracking 3D goggles are poised to be at big deal in the future of gaming with some key game developers signing on to develop games for this user interface.  While it is impossible to get a feel for the immersive nature of the experience without actually trying it for yourself, the videos indicates that a much wider field of view (full peripheral vision) and almost instantaneous responsiveness differentiate the headset from the VR we knew and hated in the nineties.

Screen Shot 2013-04-02 at 10.01.19 PMIf the experience is as exciting as those using it seem to indicate, and these devices become as common in homes around the world as the xbox kinect, retailers will be looking at yet another channel for customers to buy goods and services.

While a shopping mall or store in a Second Life like environment might seem an obvious idea, more immersive and interesting experiences would be possible in this space.  Imagine a virtual tour of a new car where a potential customer can get in the car and move their head all around to get a complete idea of the layout and size of the vehicle, and even take a virtual test drive before even visiting a showroom.   The potential uses for immersive brand experiences are incredible.

Screen Shot 2013-04-02 at 10.50.21 PMIllumiroom – Microsoft Research has also posted a video of a concept for gaming that could change the experience of interacting with a screen.  The Illumiroom concept scans the room and then projects visual elements within the room to expand the viewing area from just the TV screen to the entire room – effectively making the entire room you are in part of the experience.  The demo shows the system scanning the room to calibrate projection and then expands the background video across the room.  The video even appears to show books shaking on shelves in response to explosions on the screen.

Once again, while gaming has already shown some utility in consumer facing environments with various retail Kinect hacks the Illumiroom concept in the hands of creative types could drive a whole new type of online or even store environment to provide some unique experiences to customers.

Many have lamented that shopping for music and books is just not the same in a virtual world.  What if instead of windowshop, Amazon could project a more traditional bookstore across your living room?   You could walk through and look at virtual displays of curated books and select them for download to Kindle.  It not only provides a novel experience, but provides the potential for purchasing in the more serendipitous way that always seems to be missing from online shopping.  More first person browsing might occur than first person shooting.

2012.24 | Retail Robots

Robotic Store Staff – Carnegie Mellon has developed a robot for retailers to assist in validating stock outs and misplaced items in the store.  The autonomous device rolls through the store on its own and scans the shelves to validate locations of items and notify staff via iPads.  They have augmented that solution with some additional technology – a Google Streetview like view of the store showing where products are located on a large format digital sign.   The sign is augmented with product information should customers wish to view it – even trailers of DVDs on the shelves if they are interested.

This is a very ambitious undertaking and that team should be commended for their initiative.  There are a few hurdles for this team I can see with this type of solution based on my experience in retail:

  • I don’t know how the system works as far as where the robot moves in the store.  If it isn’t bumping into walls like my Roomba, or if the Kinect can’t recognize obstacles, it probably has a map of the store in memory somewhere.  Updating store layouts and planograms is a lot of work, and generally where wayfinding falls down.  I’m sure it’s relatively straightforward in one CMU bookstore that probably doesn’t change out their mugs and sweatshirts too much in any given cycle.   Try this in a specialty or apparel chain across hundreds of sites with varying floor plans and the potential to move store fixtures, and it becomes much more challenging.  There would need to be a tool to accommodate tweaks at sites to administer this to validate that the store information.  The challenge will be around local versus remote administration.  Local staff know the store layout but are probably not technical enough to update the map on the robot.  Remote staff can update the robot but won’t know the store.    Even better, let the robot figure it out autonomously – that’s the ultimate.
  • The Google Streetview kiosk layout is very interesting, but once again, stores and merchandise are constantly updated.  I’m finding Google Streetview is already getting out of date – the stores on the street have changed since the images were taken.  I don’t always trust it now.  Same goes for a store.  The product changes, the store changes.  There needs to be a constant update mechanism.  Even if the product is shown in the right place on the Streetview interface, users will think that the view is different and become confused.  It’s the updates that kill solutions like this.
  • That User Interface on the digital sign had a lot going on.  I’m sure a great deal of thought went into it, and it looked great, but it has to be so easy that my mom can use it in front of a half dozen spectators with some product under her arm.  Keep what the solution does as simple as possible.  It’s not an app on a mobile device for users with time on their hands and lots of buttons to push.
  • Finding a product is more of an art than a science.  That’s why people are preferred to machines so far.  Describing product is harder than it sounds.  Examples on product search are always something easy like a CMU mug.  When a customer comes to search for something in the store, it could be a specific brand and easy to search on.  More often, it might be that lavender shirt with the grey buttons – do you have it in size 4?  While customers will walk up to a screen with no other options, they will prefer to deal with a real person.  It’s always easier to walk up to someone and ask.  Voice activated or image based search and validation would be terrific – ideally it could ask the customer some questions to narrow down the items and then show pictures of the product to validate what the customer is looking for, and then where it is in the store.  If not available, allow online order and ship.  Another option?  Let the robot provide directions to the product. If they could walk faster, having the robot lead there would be incredible.
  • iPad notifications are useful, but without followup, it doesn’t mean anything.  The solution should ensure that staff are notified and prompted to action.  If no update is made, then there should be automatic escalations to management.  Would also be great if the solution would indicate if product that should be on the shelf is in stock in the store or not.  The system could prompt re-ordering for outages.

All technology solutions have challenges. Tying the solutions into the operations without impacting store staff’s ability to get their jobs done is what will make or break any retail technology solution.   This is a very interesting idea with lots of potential.  I hope it gets built  out and there is interest from retailers.

Restaurant Robots – A restaurant in China has opened with robotic staff.  The robots actually usher in customers, cook food and serve.  They are also anthropomorphic and candy coloured to impress the children.  Given the cost of the robots, and the fact that this is likely not an automat – but requires human intervention, I would expect that the food is relatively expensive.  Biggest unanswered question – what do you tip a robot?

Robot Model for Fit – Purchasing clothing online can be convenient, but fit is always a factor.  Sizes can vary widely by clothing brand.  For those shopping for clothing online, the practice of purchasing a couple of sizes and just returning the ones that don’t fit at no charge has become common.  While a convenience to the shopper, it is a rising overhead cost for retailers.  In an attempt to reduce returns based on fit,, an Estonian company has developed a robot which can change its shape to fit clothing, and then provide measurements across thousands of points for each garment.  When a customer enters their measurements, and selects a garment, it shows how the item would fit their body.  This could allow online shoppers to have a better idea of how clothing will look and fit on their body – ideally reducing returns.

Android Salesperson/Actress – In order to push some extra sales for Valentine’s Day, Takishimiya’s Tokyo store turned to a real android.  Last February, an eerily realistic robot sat in a display case using her android phone and passing the time.   Straddling the line between mannequin and real life model, the robot reacts to its surroundings to provide lifelike responses to those around her.   While a novelty at present, you could see a hyper-realistic android catching on as a way to fully demonstrate products – show how easy it is to move and stretch in athletic apparel perhaps.

Other Important Retail Robots to Remember:

Kiva Systems – Amazon owned Inventory Picking Robot system – link from 2009 Post .

PAL robots – Used in Abu Dhabi Mall.

2012.19 | More New Interfaces

Leap Motion Gesture Control – The upcoming release of Leap’s new controller device may be the interface that finally keeps LCD screens clean. Using optical technology, this iPod sized box provides users the ability to control a PC or Mac with gestures in the air instead of a keyboard, mouse or touchscreen.

Initial reviews of the product indicate that the promised sensitivity is real and much more capable than the Wii and Kinect controllers that preceded  it.  It’s a novel interface, and appears to require  little or no additional programming, so we can expect to see some innovative retailer or consumer facing organization attempt to leverage the solution in a retail environment.

SnapTagsLouLou Magazine leverage SnapTags in their June Issue magazines.  The articles available indicate that readers who download the LouLou App can use the app to read the circular codes to open additional extras, like videos and other additional content.

From the information available, SnapTags appear to be a more attractive flavour of 2D or QR barcodes or Microsoft Tags.  The circles with the lines and dashes are more attractive, but the additional value beyond that is not clear to me.  The fact that many people don’t scan 2d barcodes doesn’t have to do with how they look, it has to do with the fact that every phone doesn’t have a 2d barcode reader as standard equipment as part of the camera.  If they did, I would expect to see more usage.  For myself, having one more app is not worth it to look at video or other extras, but I’m not the demographic they are looking for.  I would just read the magazine as an app with the links built in.

Microsoft Mirage Table – Working with someone remotely is increasingly useful and plausible with increased bandwidth and simple to use collaboration tools.

Microsoft recently demonstrated what they call a MirageTable that provides a more immersive experience than video chat, providing a 3D virtual interaction that allows both parties to interact with  objects  together.  This presents a potential improvement in remote sales and transactions, and many potential future applications.

2012.07 | Carts, Pinterest & Registries

Kinect Shopping Carts – Check out this concept where your shopping cart can follow you around or lead you through a store to products via it’s Kinect Interface.  This goes into the “intriguing but probably a ways off” folder – like Google’s self driving cars.

It is a tremendous idea, but will take some time to work out the kinks in a busy store full of customers.  Also remember the usual questions around ROI.  Much as we all want magic shopping carts, and as much as technology is getting cheaper, will this technology double shoppers’ basket sizes?  Will it save on labour?  Can this thing keep up with people in the real world?  How much more will a shopping cart like this cost to buy and maintain?  How will they stand up to the beating they will take from the public?  I’ve seen a lot of tablets mounted to shopping carts in my time in one way or another, and much as I like the idea, it’s a tough solution on which to show a return.

I want my jet pack too, but I’m not sure if we’ll get it any time soon.  The media loves stories like this – with Jetson’s-like futuristic devices.  The public and store staff who have to deal with stuff like this in real life are generally less enthusiastic.   I hope it happens, but I’m skeptical.

Pinterest – Because we all need another social network to fill our hours of downtime, Pinterest is the latest to catch the imagination of the Internet and the media.  Basically it’s a bulletin board where anyone can pin any image that happens to catch their fancy – generally some object of shopping desire.  Others can jump in and like another user’s item, and that item shows who likes it.  Users can follow each others with similar tastes – like Facebook.

I personally don’t enjoy the social aspect of this as much as others seem to do.  Items that I want to remember to purchase later can go in my evernote or favorite on twitter via flipboard.  They also don’t have an iPad app, which seems a bit of an oversight that I’m sure will be corrected.  Either way, I don’t really browse the web as much on my desktop as I used to do, and I’m not adding another bookmarklet.  I’m bookmarkleted out with instapaper, delicious, and evernote already.   All that said, savvy retailers still need to be present and get their stuff out there for the masses who do love this thing.

Gift Registries – Long the purvey of chain retailers, gift registries are going rogue.  A recent Globe and Mail article outlined the changing demographic of those getting married, and how services like The Gift Network are springing up outside of retailers to fill the gap left by traditional registries.

What this article highlights is that the broad availability and relatively low cost of technology can enable solutions to compete with traditional ones that would not have existed in other times.  In the past, the gift registries were owned by the retailers – there wasn’t much choice available.  Now there is technology that reaches into every home to every friend, grandmother and child.  That kind of reach means that not all of the great ideas have to come from the retailers for a gift registry.   It does mean that retailers should find some way to accommodate potentially unrecognized needs from their shoppers, and perhaps shake things up in their own way to.  Expect more and more of these sorts of services to come into the mainstream.

2012.03 | NRF – AR – Payments & more

Stories of note from January:

NRF Big Show 2012 – As mentioned, I was at the NRF show this week.  Check out this video covering the underlying themes seen on the floor:  mobile,  consumer experience, convergence of channels, and inventory visibility.

Dominos Augmented Reality  – Dominos is using Augmented Reality to sell pizza in the UK.  Using the blippar app, users point their mobile’s camera at a billboard to see an overlay on their screen that they can touch for offers and ordering.

Microsoft Electronic Mirror – At CES this year, Microsoft was showing their version of a technology enhanced mirror concept.  I’ve seen a few of these so far, and perhaps they are a bit ahead of their time.  The Microsoft Kinect sure has some interesting possibilities for retail – particularly given it now has an official SDK – and eventually someone will work out a use case it in a retail setting that will add value to the customer experience.

Publix Cancels Curbside Pickup – US grocer Publix piloted a program for a year where customers can order groceries online and then have them brought to the car upon arrival to the store.   The program has been cancelled.  It’s an interesting idea, but I expect it is much simpler logistically to have customers come into the store to pick up their order or to have orders delivered to their home directly.

Intuit launching iPhone Payments in Canada – Staying ahead of Square, Intuit is expected to launch their GoPayment solution in Canada in the near future.  I’ve had requests from friends and clients about an equivalent to Square in Canada, so expect they will have some takers.  I will be most interested to see how they deal with EMV.  Both the Intuit and Square solution include card swiping modules that connect to the iPhone or iPad.  Those devices work fine with decades old MSR technology, but what about EMV and the requirement for reading chips from cards, and allowing entry of PINs- a requirement in Canada?

2011.30 | Retail Innovation Linkdump

July and August have completely overwhelmed me with new ideas for retail technology!  Here are some fascinating links and where I found them:

via PSFK:

As always, PSFK has lots of useful information coming in their Future of Retail Report – be sure to check it out.

via Boingboing:

  • Check out the recyclable pizza box from well documented NY store Eataly that is recyclable even though it has had pizza grease on it.  The intrepid pizza box collector gets to the Eataly box at about 2.30 of the video if you can’t wait.

via The Splendid Table:

  • NYC is recruiting customer snitches to identify retailers that might be overcharging at the POS versus posted prices.  Snitches can identify wrongdoers via twitter or Facebook.
via @Wired:
  • Digital Signage is everywhere, but have you seen the massive American Eagle digital sign in Times Square?  Check out some interesting uses of that sign.

2011.23 | Store 2011

Having now attended the 2010 and 2011 Store conferences, I believe that Retail Council of Canada’s event is a wonderful place for retailers to attend and learn about all retail trends – technological or not.  For me, the highlight is the speakers.  No matter what area of business they come from, I always learn something new. 

Unfortunately, I was only able to attend Day 2 of the conference this year.  Here are some highlights from Day 2 :

Marshall Warketin – General Manager Air Miles – Had some interesting insights on Inflation, Prices and Consumer Behaviour in Canada.  Air Miles used a survey organization to talk to a sampling of 1,300 Canadians on these subjects.  Some interesting points:  Gas and grocery are most notably inflated to consumers; cross border shopping is low; data seems to point to an opporunity for localization and smaller store footprints; online coupons are huge and growing; 33% of those surveyed said they will shop at a discount store; women are 15% more sensitive to price. 

John Gerzema – Chief Insights Officer – Young & Rubicam – John talked through some of what he highlights in his book – The Brand Bubble.  He drove through a massive number of examples of organizations and trends that are recognizing the changes and driving the way we buy, sell and live after the Great Recession.  Some of my favourites were: paperless post, grannies inc., panera bread’s pay what you can, arduino, kinect hacks, time banks, liquidspace, whip car, Zaarly and  These are really just a taste of the examples he covered.  The message that capitalism is about better instead of more really resonates.  He also suggested that the term ‘Consumer’ needs to change – it’s more about mindful spending than consuming.  While he spoke I downloaded the sample of his book, and am checking it out.  Follow @johngerzema on twitter.  He has shared some good information since I started following him at the conference.

Lewis Feinstein – Chief Operating Officer – The Shoe Company – Lewis highlighted his company’s adoption and use of the Opterus platform for store communication and task management.  If you are trying to figure out how to streamline store operations across your enterprise, you should check out this solution. 

Mike Pratt – President & COO – Best Buy Canada Ltd – Mike’s discussion boiled down to the fact that it isn’t technology that we want, it’s the outcome.  We want pictures of our kids on our TV, we want a video we can share with their grandparents.  He says the technology doesn’t matter, it’s that they drive experiences, and he is absolutely correct.  As someone who works in technology, it’s the end result we are all after, and it is always good to step back from what we are doing to remind ourselves of that fact.

These short notes don’t do justice to the discussions.  You really have to attend in person to get everything from it.  I plan on looking through the presentations for Day 1 when I have the time.  If you find yourself in Toronto in the June timeframe, I recommend attending the conference.

2011.19 | Buy Now! | Try it on! | Pick it out!

Buy Now! – I was interested to see that in Wired 19.05 (on the Wired iPad app) it is possible to click a button next to the profiled products in the Test Sections which takes readers directly to a link to purchase said item.  While the wizards at Conde Nast aren’t perfect (making me watch a video every time I go to the title page is annoying; losing track of my purchases of every single iPad Wired issue didn’t impress) this is a seemingly obvious improvement to magazines, which we all know are giant bundles of ads anyway.   Considering Conde Nast owns Vogue, this seems like a lucrative way to help fund the magazine and provide a very useful service. (They only won me back on Wired because 19.05 was free – good move Wired.)

Try it on! – A Topshop store in Russia recently toyed with a Kinect hack to build a virtual mirror.  While this is the second one of these I’ve seen in recent months, I’m still not convinced of their validity as a true selling tool.  Placing this in the middle of the sales floor is an obvious attention grabber for a one off situation (note guy holding tray of champagne), but unlikely to be a device used for the masses to sell more clothing.  It’s a really great technical trick, and fun for now, but the video doesn’t give me the impression of what the outfit would really look like if one was serious about buying it.

Pick it out! – Another kinect hack solved a more practical problem in my mind.  Picture going to the deli or the Starbucks and asking for that sandwich that you want in the front row in the second level of the glass display.  No, not that one, the one behind there.  Having been on both sides of the glass in retail, I love this hack that allows a person behind the counter to understand what item is being indicated by the shopper.  The kinect is configured to provide an image of what the shopper is pointing at.  Small benefit, but if you have a complex display and have to deal with hundred of shoppers the time and angst savings could add up.

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