Eye on AI - November 1st, 2019
Welcome to Aigora's "Eye on AI" series, where we round up exciting news at the intersection of consumer science and artificial intelligence!
This week, as we continue our discussion on AI’s continued disruption within retail, we turn our focus to AI-assisted consumer interactions, specifically those found within the grocery and fashion industries.
AI Monetization and Labour-Saving Costs within Grocery Retail
To begin, let’s take a look at an intriguing Troy Media article out this week, titled “Artificial Intelligence Is Reshaping Food Retailing,” in which contributor and senior director of the agri-food analytics lab and food distribution Dr. Sylvain Charlebois details how AI-assist technology has caused some concern about monetization vs. labour costs within grocery retailers.
“AI is slowly taking over many services, with the goal of making our economy more robust,” writes Charlebois. “…. Whether these technologies will allow grocers to generate more revenues remains to be seen. Monetizing convenience in this sector isn’t easy. It may just be that these measures are all about cutting costs – labour costs specifically.”
Monetization is still difficult for large-scale AI-assist programs within grocery because, as Charlebois notes, much of the world hasn’t yet adopted the technologies needed to utilize consumer-driven AI-services. The issue is labour. AI in the long run will cost far less than human workers, which some worry may lead to massive job losses. On that topic, Dr. Cherlebois has the following to say:
“History shows that AI won’t completely replace people. But it will amend people’s roles so they can devote more time developing strategies, getting new leads and building relationships with vendors…. AI will enable retailers to better understand consumer psychology. In turn, inventory management can be greatly enhanced. Unlike Amazon, the legacy grocery sector was never good at that. It’s playing catch-up now.”
As mentioned, Amazon has stayed largely ahead of the competition within the grocery industry, with strategic purchases (see Whole Foods) and delivery capabilities. The retail giant even announced this week that it will be making grocery deliveries free for Amazon Prime members, a move they hope will corner the grocery delivery market. I wouldn’t be surprised if this led to a massive spike in Prime subscriptions, which means more consumer data for Amazon (its most valuable commodity).
“You Look Good In That, Now Try This,” Says Your AI Fashion Assistant
We transition now into the fashion industry, with news about the rise of the virtual AI Fashion Assistant. Tech Times, in their article titled “Artificial Intelligence Generates Fashion Recommendations Virtually,” details how researchers from the University of Texas at Austin (UT-Austin), Cornell Tech, Georgia Tech, and Facebook AI Research have created an artificial intelligence system that gives users personalized fashion advice.
“Using thousands of outfit images posted by fashion enthusiasts, Fashion++ was trained to learn the components of a fashionable outfit,” the article reads. “Likewise, by mashing up several parts of these outfits, the artificial intelligence system was able to determine what an unfashionable outfit looked like.”
The system uses three phases to collect data, understand user preferences, then make small fashion recommendations on things like cut, pattern and styling that may improve or add to a user’s preferred look. This YouTube video does an excellent job of explaining the technology; it’s really quite impressive. Still – a few wrinkles remain that need to be ironed out.
“There are still some improvements to be made in the system, such as factoring in different body sizes and shapes, improving fashion representation from different cultures all over the world, and analyzing fashionable outfits prior to the 90s (accounting for style changes over the decades),” the article adds.
This recommendation technology is akin to the smart mirror or AI-video technology we discussed previously, such as L’Oreal’s new ModiFace virtual makeup testing service. It’s now easier than ever to try new clothes or styles without actually trying them on. The retail revolution is moving fast. Don’t blink or you could miss it.
More on AI-assisted consumer interactions:
Hotel giant Hilton looks to connected rooms to transform the customer experience
New data streams becoming available:
Consumer spending on wearable smart devices to hit 52 billion by next year!
Study finds AI helps discover new data sources, but struggles with optimization
Other interesting advances:
Progress by Google on predicting smells from molecular structure (a hard problem, one that’s likely far from usable in the real world due to complex interactions)
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