From June 11 to 12, See Fashion took part at CogX18 — the world’s leading festival in Artificial Intelligence (AI), blockchain and emerging technology. The festival gathered some of the world’s leading business and academic minds from the likes of IBM, Google and Cambridge University to discuss the future applications of AI in various industries including retail.
Here are the top things we learnt..
1) Retail is not dead… it’s just changing
Aaron Jones, CEO and co-founder of See Fashion pitched at the Lightning Stage to a network of business and tech leaders, including representatives from DFS, Microsoft and Financial Times about the future of retail. Jones showed that while there has been an increase in the number of store closures on the high street, retail is not dead but rather in its renaissance. Changing consumer habits and the online shift has altered the purpose of the physical store from selling products to creating personalised and memorable experiences. The retail winners will be those who use solutions like See Fashion to track and action the right data about their customers in order to deliver seamless and memorable experiences across their various channels.
View the full pitch below (starts from 1:30:38)
The See Fashion team also exhibited at the Start Up Village amongst 30 leading startups in AI, machine learning and robotics from all over the world. We had the opportunity to demo some of our features, including our style picker and the intelligence dashboard, to 2000+ attendees.
2) Robots are advancing...
CogX demonstrated the increasing advancements in robotic technology, with robots now being able to perform more creative and interactive functions in real-time.
RoboThespian is able to show a sense of humour, jokingly commenting to onlookers, “Do not worry, I am not programmed to take over the world.” Sophia — the first and only robot to have a citizenship — is also able to show increased emotional intelligence due to advancements in facial recognition and natural language processing. Cameras within Sophia’s eyes combined with computer algorithms allow her to see, recognize individuals and ‘read’ faces. As a result, she can sustain ‘somewhat’ intelligent conversations with individuals.
But are we ready to engage with robots? Are we ready to be greeted and have human-like relations and interactions with “someone” whom is not human at all? Does this mean that we will not need humans working in retail shops but robots will deliver the service? It sounds like sci-fi movie content but according to our panelists we could not be that far from this.
Robot Pepper (which is already in use) was created by SoftBank Robotics and is taking a step forward in this evolution. Pepper scans facial expressions, movements and speech to interpret emotions and respond accordingly using answers pre-programmed by its owners. It’s responses are not too human-like, which makes it less similar to Sophia and RoboThespian and, honestly, less scary. As Steve Carlin, SoftBank Robotics’ general manager, rightly mentioned, consumers would not like it if it resembled humans too much as “it would be odd”.
It is estimated that retailers who use Pepper in they businesses will increase interactions with consumers by 98%, will capture real-time data such as number and duration of session and demographics, (which is also the kind of data See Fashion uses), will have a 20% boost in foot traffic and a 3x revenue increase.
From these stats, we can see that shoppers are happy to engage with robot to help them with their personal shopping — yet it needs to be noted that this has mainly been deployed in the State, restricted to first point of access to the store. We are far from stores being completely operated by humanoids like Pepper.
Nevertheless, the value of Pepper is that she/he/it is just an interface which works like a computer: perfectly designed to interest the client and technically used to store your data through its tablet.
3) ...but they are not going to replace humans, yet
With the advancement in robotics, the ongoing debate has been whether human capital will be replaced by machinery. However, according to panelists Laura Noonan (Investment Banking Correspondent, Financial Times) and Joshua Gans (professor at the University of Toronto) technological evolution should not be regarded as a problem, rather a technical tool to exploit.
This is a threat that dates as back as the Industrial Revolution but it is up to us as workers to adapt to the inevitable technological evolution and draw advantage from it rather than succumb to it. Of course, AI and robotics will mean low-skilled menial jobs will be replaced (take the distribution and delivery operations taking place in warehouses) but it frees up capital to invest in more highly-skilled jobs that cannot be performed by AI. For example, sales assistants can finally get out of the checkout and start engaging with customers with their skills and knowledge about the products. Artificial intelligence will kill jobs, but it will create new ones too.
"It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change." - Charles Darwin
4) Self-driving cars could revolutionise mobile shopping
Significant progress continues to be made in car automation. Despite existing since 1914, self-driving cars has never been able to ‘take off’ due to high costs. However, as Frank Chen (partner at Andreeseen Horowitz) explained, recent research has worked to cut down costs, and Chen estimates that the majority of cars will be electric by 2020 and self-driving within the next 10–20 years.
It sounds like crazy estimates, but take a look at these pictures..
In the first image there are mainly horses in the streets of NY, and only one car can be spotted. Exactly 13 years later, the situation is completely reversed with mainly cars traveling on 5th Ave, except for one horse.
“Sometimes tech gets adopted a lot faster than we expect”, and this is the same estimate when looking at electric, if not even self-driving cars.
Self-driving is not as far as we expect it to be: already now there are features on the most advanced cars that will make them stop or park automatically (e.g. BMW, Audi, Tesla). The self-driving feature will not only impact how we move from A to B, but have implication on how our cities are built and more interestingly, how we shop. Already, companies like Nuro and Starship Technologies are designing automated cars that will carry our bags or objects: what will this mean for the future of shopping and delivery?
Imagine not having to go to the actual shop anymore, and have vehicles bring the goods from the shop directly to you. Shoppers will be able to have goods delivered to their door within an hour, try it on and have it returned back without the hassle of posting anything. A similar concept is currently being applied in Shanghai with Moby - the travelling convenience store.
So, with all this in mind. It's time for retailers to get excited about the future applications of AI in their stores. Otherwise...be prepared to be caught up in the retail apocalypse.
"It is the beginning of the world as we know it. Play offense."
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