GDR NRF Newsletter March 2018

Ikea Place lets shoppers see 2,000 augmented reality products in their homes

Ikea Place is an augmented reality app powered by Apple’s ARKit that allows customers to see virtual representations of 2,000 of the Swedish brand’s products in their home.

Customers can browse the Ikea catalogue in the app and, when they want to check whether a sofa, armchair, table or storage unit fits in the corner of their room, they simply tap the product, place the item using their camera and look through the screen. Once the item is placed they can walk around the room to see it from different angles.

With items such as futons, which have more than one potential setup, users can flick between views to see what it looks like as a sofa and as a bed.

This is not the first time Ikea has dabbled in augmented reality but, backed by the capabilities of the iOS 11 update, tech experts believe Ikea Place is revolutionary in its realism and consistency.

"The first [augmented reality] experience we had was more like a picture," says Michael Valdsgaard, the leader of digital transformation at Ikea. "You could put in a 3D object, but you couldn’t really move around it or trust the size of it.

"Apple has solved some technical hurdles that no one else has solved. You don’t need to read a manual, you don’t need to put on special glasses. You just pull out your iPhone, scan the floor and it has already been measured for you.

"This is going to change how we interact with computers, and it’s also going to change how we shop."

Autonomous convenience store drives to its customers

Moby is a solar-powered, autonomous convenience store being trialled in Shanghai. The structure, which is on wheels, resembles a pop-up shop with glass panels in the place of walls. Using an app, customers can check the location of a Moby or summon the store to their location, which proposes a radically new format for on-demand delivery and convenience.

A holographic sales assistant, Hol, greets customers and can help place orders for products not currently in stock. Purchasing from the Moby store is similar to the Amazon Go experience. All purchases are tallied and completed via the app. If customers do not want to visit the store, they can order via the app and their goods will be delivered by one of four on-board drones.

The store is open 24 hours and has proprietary machine learning baked in so it can keep inventory up to date based on what has been purchased. If stock runs out, it will drive itself to the warehouse to replenish its cargo.

Burger chain replaces loyalty card with facial recognition kiosks

Burger chain CaliBurger has introduced kiosks in its Pasadena location to let customers order using facial recognition technology.

When customers step up to the kiosk, they can scan their face. This will bring up their previous orders and allow them to collect loyalty points or “Calicoins” toward free meals.

If successful, CaliBurger intends to expand this technology to its other locations.

The chain is well-known for experimenting with innovative technology. It previously introduced Flippy, an AI-backed robot that flips burgers, into its kitchens.

Chinese supermarket lets customers shop on their own terms

Shanghai-based supermarket Hema is transforming the way consumers think about grocery shopping. The supermarket uses technology and data to merge online and offline shopping, offering consumers a more efficient and flexible shopping experience.

By using the Alibaba Group’s Alipay mobile app, customers can shop from the comfort of their own homes. They can order fresh food to cook at home or they can have it prepared by Hema chefs and delivered within 30 minutes.

Those shopping in-store can use the app to add items to their virtual baskets by scanning them as they move throughout the space. Food bought in-store can be cooked for carry-out, or it can be enjoyed in the store’s dining area. Shoppers can also have their fresh ingredients or cooked meals delivered to a nearby home or office.

There is, of course, also the option to shop the experiential space as a traditional grocery store.

The seamless and flexible shopping experience is backed by a complex logistics offering. As shoppers use their phones to shop the space, Hema employees on the shop floor, in the warehouse and in the kitchens respond in real-time to prepare products and meals, which are delivered to customers’ homes by a fleet of motorcycle drivers.

“We believe the future of new retail will be a harmonious integration of online and offline, and Hema is a prime example of this evolution that’s taking place,” said Alibaba Group CEO Daniel Zhang. “Hema is a showcase of the new business opportunities that emerge from online-offline integration.”