Shopping is a joy for many people who want to treat themselves to something useful or nice with the money they earn. But what doesn't give us that joy anymore is standing in line. For me, standing in line for a long time always spoils the shopping experience. Artificial intelligence could help solve this problem. Welcome to the next article in our series, this time about artificial intelligence in retail.
Let's go back to our problem of long lines at the checkout. That will soon come to an end. Not only will standing at the checkout be eliminated, but the checkouts themselves will also disappear altogether. You will simply walk into the store and take what you want. You say to yourself, well, that's what they do nowadays only to be taken to the police. This is theft, which we'll deal with later. Right now we're talking about cashless stores, which would be legal. When entering a cashless shop, you would be scanned by a number of cameras. The footage would be analysed live by systems based on computer vision and artificial intelligence and would automatically add items to your virtual cash register. The amount you owe would then be automatically deducted from your account when you leave.
In the previous case of the cashier-less store, it would be perfectly legal to take what I want, as I automatically paid for it after leaving the store. However, if someone takes something in a traditional store without paying for it, it's theft. This type of theft is a big problem for retail. It cuts into the stores' profits and makes other customers feel less safe. Artificial intelligence could change this. A virtually identical system to that used in cashier-less stores could be deployed to prevent shoplifting. It would continuously evaluate the CCTV footage deployed in stores and alert security to fraudulent activity in their operations. Stores could even deploy the theft prevention systems first and with a simple upgrade convert them into cashier-less point-of-sale systems in the future.
You know the drill. You're looking for something you need in an online store. You assume it will take a very long time until you find exactly what you have in mind. Suddenly, the online store offers you something exactly to your liking all by itself. It's perfect, exactly what you wanted. How could the store possibly know that? The answer is very simple - because it knows you very well. Every time you visit the store or go on its website to browse or make a purchase, it's recorded. Based on this, a profile is created about you. Based on this profile, you are offered a product that matches your preferences. Often, you are even recommended something you didn't even know you wanted to buy. With perfect knowledge of your shopping preferences and needs, artificial intelligence can serve you as a very good adviser.
A fascinating application of AI is virtual mirrors. This form of augmented reality takes the shape of a traditional mirror. But instead of faithfully reflecting your form, a virtual mirror offers you the opportunity to change what you're wearing. You can easily try on any dress, handbag, or other accessory without having to go anywhere or actually physically try anything on. Automatically, the virtual dress will adjust to your body, instantly finding the exact size that fits you just right. If you like the dress, you can simply order it by voice command and it will be with you in a few days or even a few hours in cities. But in the slightly more distant future, even that won't be necessary. Thanks to advances in 3D printing, you can simply print the dress at home. Within a few hours of looking in the mirror, you'll be able to walk out the door in your new dress.
No matter how many employees work in a store or e-commerce business, none of them can keep track of whether something is missing from stock. Artificial intelligence, however, does. With sales information and camera systems monitoring the store, the warehouse system will have a constant overview of stock levels. It will automatically stock the missing items. Advanced systems powered by artificial intelligence will even have the ability to predict what goods customers are interested in. This could include seasonal goods or goods based on social sentiment. Of course, this is already happening in traditional systems. However, artificial intelligence can work with large amounts of data. It finds shapes and correlations in them that would go unnoticed by traditional systems, which makes the efficiency of its deployment much higher.
Martin Spano is the author of Artificial Intelligence in a Nutshell and the most-followed informatician in Slovakia.