When AI & VR Collide: The New Frontier of Retail

Posted by Patrick Niersbach on July 11, 2017


If you’re not a serious technology buff, there’s a good chance that your concept of artificial intelligence doesn’t extend much further than knowing someone who owns an Amazon Echo. AI might simply seem like a buzzword, a trendy idea that conjures a futuristic world of robot butlers and self-driving cars. But the fact is, robots and self-driving cars are already here—along with a whole array of AI capabilities that you’ve probably never even considered.

AI is actually all around us. If you’ve ever talked to Siri, listened to Pandora or watched Netflix, you’ve experienced AI first hand—computer algorithms are translating sounds into language, learning what you like and don’t like, and making suggestions based on their findings.

In retail, we know that machine learning has already begun to change manufacturing, logistics, payment, and customer relations. Automation and sensors are allowing retailers and manufacturers to better track and connect with customers, and are giving in-store shoppers the efficiency they crave. We only need to look at Amazon’s recent pending acquisition of Whole Foods to get an idea of how AI will manifest in the grocery sector. The retail dynamo will likely soon bring automation to the operations and supply chain side of Whole Foods. Down the road, we could see AmazonGo-like technology gaining steam in grocery as well.

AI is just starting to find its legs. But it will be AI’s relationship with today’s other technological powerhouse--virtual reality—that really has the potential to revolutionize retail’s go-to-market strategies. Intel is leveraging their chip technology to develop data-driven, responsive solutions for retail, and part of that focus is on how they will marry machine learning with VR’s visualization potential to create a brand new world of innovation for the sector. 

According to a report by McKinsey Global Institute, "U.S. and European retailers had managed to capture only 30 to 40 percent of the potential business value that big data and analytics represent, leaving 60 to 70 percent of that potential untapped," at the end of 2016. Intel wants to organize, process and visualize those massive amounts of data in a useful way, and they want to leverage AI and VR to do it.

We’ve been collaborating with Intel to help facilitate that goal. Right now, our clients use VR solutions to help build and visualize new in-store concepts, test those concepts in the context of a store, and then present their findings to gain buy-in. VR has disrupted the business process for many forward-thinking companies, and has proved to be a more efficient and cost-effective compared to traditional business methods. Bring machine learning into the mix, and we’re talking about a whole new playing field when it comes to in-store planning.

Imagine developing a new shelf concept using automated learning from sensor-based information, loyalty data and voice recognition—and then pair it with a VR experience that shows exactly how that new concept will look in the context of a store. This is the future, and there’s huge potential for deep insights and visualization that completely changes how we present ideas. Taking machine learning and then placing the data within virtual environment creates a brand new world where long timelines and risk of failure are nearly obsolete. Teams will be able to visualize data like never before, while working quicker and more efficiently.

We’re on the precipice of exciting new developments in AI and VR that will completely change the way we work—for the better. Smart retailers and manufacturers are getting on board now to make sure they can keep up when that future becomes the present.

Request a Demo to see us in action.

Patrick Niersbach

Pat is the Senior Director of Marketing at InContext Solutions.

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