Industry

From face recognition and machine learning to autonomous cars and virtual reality

Virtual reality, shopping from an autonomous car, face recognition, machine learning and conversational commerce all featured as SAP Hybris showcased its vision of the future of retail at its customer conference in Barcelona this week.

The commerce platform provider demonstrated technologies with potential retail applications, from the more far off use of virtual reality to manage data, and how shopping from an autonomous car might work – through to face recognition, chatbot Charly and Internet of Things applications that are available now.

Machine-learning powered Chatbot Charly, for example, will respond to shoppers questions on orders, inventory and delivery, while SAP Leonardo powers facial recognition technology within the SAP Hybris Marketing CLoud that analyses faces in order to match their age and gender to in-stock retail products, showing them personalised product recommendations on nearby in-store displays. Pepper the in-store robotic sales assistant recognises products from a QR code and then takes shoppers to the product they’re looking for.

Technologies developed by Hybris’ labs division also included demonstrations via the Galaxy system (pictured) of how data can be presented and understood through virtual reality systems. The demonstration was based on show visitors’ interests, as detected through RFID tags embedded in delegates’ name badges, but has potential applications to retail, such as managing customer data.

In his keynote presentation, Hybris co-founder Carsten Thoma told the audience that retail was changing as products and experience become one. “The product is the experience and the experience is the product,” he said, as he looked ahead to a next-generation of shoppers who won’t want to own things but to share them through the sharing economy. “People are sharing and that has a dramatic effect on your products,” he said. Subscription, he said, would also change the way customers buy. Hybris, he said, is working to turn products into services.

In her keynote presentation, futurist and researcher Sophie Hackford shared some of the trends she sees in the future of retail, from the emerging use of satellite technology to track retail sales via view of store car parks to the future use of virtual reality technology to shop in virtual stores.

Virtual worlds, said Hackford, would mean that “our expectations of real life are going to change dramatically, we’ll crave different human experiences from those in retail, hospitals and schools today.”

She also focused on the importance of shopper data handed over through Facebook, Google and devices such as Amazon Echo. The use of seamless payments and data together would take us towards a world in which “homes and cars will order food on our behalf, for once Amazon Echo and Alexa understand what food we like, they will make those choices for us.”

“We need to have the debate,” she said, “and to have conversations about how we’ll use these powers at our fingertips.”

Image credits:
  • Image courtesy of SAP Hybris