Can autonomous stores catch on?
These unmanned physical stores are being tested and launched, as are technologies replacing humans. But will shoppers want them?
Don’t look now, but experiments to turn physical stores into automated vending machines are breaking out all over.
Last month, Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com announced it is opening hundreds of convenience stores that have no human employees. Designed around facial and object recognition technology, this initiative goes beyond Amazon’s Go pilot autonomous store, unveiled a year ago. JD’s effort is only the latest in a series of unmanned store experiments in that country.
Also in December, Walmart said it was experimenting with a cashierless store concept store called Project Kepler that was also propelled by computer vision. And that big box retailer has already started using robots to scan aisles, check what’s out of stock and automate restocking.
An Amazon patent for a mirror that dresses the shopper in virtual clothes without help from store personnel became public last week. And LG showed robots at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show that are designed to take the place of serving staff in hotels, airport lounges and restaurants.