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  • Writer's pictureJohn Ennis

Eye on AI - September 11th, 2020

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’s Eye on AI is all about the tech evolution of the food shopping experience, from the opening of ‘Fresh,' Amazon’s new tech-heavy grocery chain, to contactless holographic buttons, a new ghost kitchen automating robot, and more.


Amazon Owns Upscale Grocery with Whole Foods, and Now Aims to Corner the Rest of the Market with the Opening of ‘Fresh’ Grocery

We begin with – surprise, surprise – big news out of Amazon. With the tech behemoth’s profits skyrocketing and its stock rising over 60% since the beginning of the pandemic, Bezos and company have positioned themselves for growth in new e-commerce markets, beginning with grocery. While their Whole Foods purchase gave them a leg up on high-end grocery, the addition of their tech-heavy ‘Fresh’ grocery chain, which opened its first location in LA this week aims to compete with a wider grocery market.

“The new format incorporates a blend of in-store and online shopping, while offering consumers a variety of products at lower price points than Whole Foods,” writes CNBC contributor Annie Palmer. “.... Amazon has also incorporated some unique high-tech touches to the Fresh store…. Dash Carts [will] allow shoppers to check out without waiting in line…. There are also kiosks located throughout the Fresh store equipped with voice-activated Echo Show smart displays, where shoppers can ask Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant for help locating items in the store or for suggestions on what to make for dinner.”

The opening of the Fresh grocery store comes at a curious time, when many brick and mortar locations are shutting down. While Amazon will continue to dominate the e-commerce market in the midst of the pandemic, they’re positioned to take a big share of brick and mortar grocery shopping when (if) customers return to in-store shopping.

“Retailers that shut their doors have continued to sell online, but it hasn’t translated to a surge in sales like that experienced by Amazon,” writes Palmer in another CNBC article, titled ‘How the coronavirus and retail closures are accelerating the rise of Amazon.’ “A survey of nearly 100 digital retailers by CommerceNext, an e-commerce marketing and consulting firm, found 64.5% of businesses reported that e-commerce activity was down during the crisis. Taken together, the retail industry’s troubles have generated concern about what the competitive landscape will look like when the pandemic subsides.”

As if that weren’t enough good news for Amazon, Amazon Prime also received FAA approval this week for drone package deliveries, a huge milestone that moves team Bezos one step closer to realizing their dream of delivering packages en masse from the skies. From where I’m sitting, Amazon seems well positioned to continue to dominate the e-commerce and brick and mortar spaces well after pandemic subsides.

The Restaurant Tech Revolution is Happening Right Under Our Nose

Let’s continue with a slew of new stories about contact-less food tech that could help encourage customers back into the stores and may help revolutionize the food industry. The most novel tech comes from Holo Industries, a brand of Convergence Promotions that provides holographic and contactless-touch solutions that can be used in place of things like elevator buttons, restaurant menus, check-out kiosks, etc. Ashlen Weddington from The Spoon reports:

“The hologram interface is made possible through the pairing of Neonode Touch Sensor Modules, the ASKA 3D Holographic plate from Asukanet, and other components from Holo Industries,” writes Weddington. “The holographic menus are touch responsive, and when your finger touches a button mid-air, it triggers an audible response from the unit…. Currently, the products from Holo Industries are being used by elevator companies, and the company is also piloting a kiosk program with two undisclosed restaurant companies.”

While contactless solutions won’t be able to save the restaurant industry, notes Weddington, Holo Industries touch-less holographic kiosk, menu, and payment offering could play a key roll in encouraging customers back into dine-in restaurant service by reducing the risk of contracting COVID-19. Keeping with the contact-less theme, Weddington released a related article this week describing a new robot called Beastro that aims to fully automate ghost restaurants.

“The smarts of the Beastro is in Kitchen Robotics’ cloud-based Cuismo software,” writes Weddington. “Cuismo manages the programming and monitoring of each dish made, allows for customization and, according to the company, uses deep learning and predictive analysis to reduce operational costs, though it doesn’t say exactly how. Cuismo also integrates with third-party delivery services.”

With ghost kitchens predicted to become a trillion dollar market by 2030, wide implementation may be just around the corner. Compliment this news with an article on the newly unveiled Chipotle virtual assembly line for the full contact-less restaurant news experience.

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