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Here come 'smart stores' with robots, interactive shelves

SFGate Tuesday, 3 January 2017
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Tomorrow's retail stores want to take a page from their online rivals by embracing advanced technology — everything from helpful robots to interactive mirrors to shelves embedded with sensors. Amazon's new experimental grocery store in Seattle, opening in early 2017, will let shoppers buy goods without needing to stop at a checkout line. Robots, for instance, could help guide shoppers to the right aisle, while augmented reality apps could help you see how a particular shade of paint will look in the living room — or how you might look in a pair of jeans. Some of these online technologies can even track shoppers from site to site to lure them back with what's known as retargeting ads — promos targeted to what that shopper has looked at before, but didn't actually buy. Perch Interactive, a startup that is working with chains like Sunglass Hut and fragrance maker Jo Malone, uses laser and motion sensors to detect when a product is picked up. Home improvement retailer Lowe's is testing robots in one of its San Jose, California, store, and plans to roll them out to 10 more stores in the state this year. Besides scanning shelves for inventory, the robots can guide customers to specific products in both English and Spanish. Rent the Runway, an online retailer that lets people rent high-end clothing, teamed up with Samsung to have digital displays highlight its online inventory for shoppers at a new location in New York. Home improvement retailers have been embracing virtual reality and augmented reality to help shoppers figure out ways to decorate homes or apartments. With such technologies, shoppers wear a headset to picture how something might look in 3-D, in some cases overlaid on top of their real kitchen or living room. Home Depot's augmented reality app lets customers upload a picture of the room on their phone and thumb through thousands of paint and stain colors until they arrive at one that's right. [...] shortly after Amazon announced its checkout-less store, Panasonic Corp. unveiled an unstaffed bagging system at a Lawson convenience store in Japan.
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