Retail

Food Service Robot Mixes Perfect Salad in 60 Seconds

Create: 05/24/2017 - 18:04
Chowbotics IoT robot

Photo: Chowbotics

 

Sally the salad-making robot has arrived, and she may be the next big thing that can satisfy your customers’ hunger for food-service automation. The creation of Redwood City, CA-based Chowbotics, Sally is a programmable robot that is about the size of dorm refrigerator. Using proprietary robotics technology, Sally can dispense and accurately measure 21 different healthy ingredients, including romaine, kale, seared chicken breast, Parmesan, California walnuts, cherry tomatoes and Kalamata olives. She mixes and dispenses the ingredients, while maintaining a precise temperature control. The foodie robot can craft 1,000 unique salads, all while the customer watches.

Sally is among a growing list of new consumer and business robots with specific functions. According to BI Intelligence, that segment of the robotics industry is surging. The multibillion-dollar global market for robotics, which has been dominated by industrial and logistics uses, is shifting toward new consumer and business applications, resulting in what may become a $1.5 billion market for consumer and business robots by 2019.

On the Job 24x7

Sally weighs in at 350 lbs. and has a list price of $30,000. Chowbotics also offers a lease option for $500 a month. That size and price point makes her appropriate for industrial kitchens and a variety of settings, including restaurants, airports, gyms, hospitals and other venues that are open 24/7 and have the need for fresh foods around the clock. Chowbotics intends to market Sally to hotels, so business guests who check in late can get fresh food even after the hotel restaurant is closed.

Chowbotics is making two versions of Sally, including one that can used by staff in a kitchen where servers could use Sally and then walk the salads out to customers. It also has an automat version with a menu touchscreen that allows customers to order and customize the salad of their choice, pay via Sally’s built-in credit card reader, and even watch her make the salad.

Precision Automation

The Chowbotics’ robot precisely measures each salad ingredient, ensuring that the customer order contains the exact number of calories listed on Sally’s digital menu. Chowbotics CEO and founder Deepak Sekar says that fast food restaurants with Sally serving up salads will attract more health-conscious patrons, as her recipes with their healthy ingredients contain far fewer calories than the typical 400 calorie options available at many quick-serve restaurants and salad bars. Businesses that use Sally can opt for Chowbotics-provided recipes or key their own recipes into the robot. Many of the recipes were created by Chowbotics executive chef Charlie Ayers, who was formerly Google’s original chef and a specialist in making healthy mass lunches in the 10 cafes on the Google campus.

Chowbotics IoT robot

Photo: Chowbotics

In addition to her measuring skills, Sally offers several other benefits to restaurants. “Sally is the next generation of salad restaurant,” Sekar told the San Francisco Chronicle. He notes that a robot can make salad faster than a human can, and it’s more hygienic to have a machine prepare a salad than to have multiple cooks mixing ingredients or (worse yet) a crowd touching all the ingredients in an open salad bar. The company also notes that for restaurant owners, Sally has advantages over human labor: she is dependable and predictably efficient, requires no health benefits and is always available around the clock, if needed.

Sally requires human hands to prep and load the ingredients that go into its canisters, which are then installed into the robot. She can make 40 salads before refilling. Sekar says that while chopping ingredients by machine “is too complicated right now,” automated chopping functionality is on deck in future versions of the robot.

Dressed Up and Ready to Go

Several pilot customers are using the Chowbotics robot. Sally is mixing up greens at the Campbell, CA-based Italian restaurant Mama Mia’s, and it is in the co-working space Galvanize in San Francisco. Sally also has a job at the corporate cafeteria at H-E-B Grocery Co. in Texas.

Watch Sally make a salad at http://sallythesaladrobot.com/. Learn more about Chowbotics robots for food service. 

Retail Robotics: Automated Shelf Auditing and Analytics

Create: 05/02/2017 - 09:03
IoT retail Simbe Robotics

Photo: Simbe Robotics

 

Like almost every industry, retail is being shaped by the IoT—or more specifically, autonomous robots and algorithms. If advancements in robotic technology and artificial intelligence continue on the current trajectory, robotics could go beyond providing just a “wow factor” and be the key to bringing customers back into physical stores, according to a recent article in Intel iQ.

All retailers, whether online or brick-and-mortar, understand the importance of providing a positive shopping experience, knowing that doing so increases the likelihood of having return customers.

While store staff can have the most impact on the shopping experience, robotics have the potential for delivering positive improvements to the retail ecosystem, including:

  • Free up retail staff
  • Provide automated inventory monitoring and restocking
  • Increase business efficiency
  • Enlarge and expand customer base and customer satisfaction
  • Reduce operating costs
  • Reduce losses from theft
  • Provide real-time data and analytics
  • Perform janitorial and cleaning services after hours.

Stocking Up

While each of these is important for store owners, one of the key uses of robotics in retail is ridding stores of the mundane and repetitive tasks, including auditing shelves. According to research from the IHL Group, global retailers lose nearly $450 billion annually as a result of out-of-stock items, empty shelves and other in-store inconsistencies.

Through robotic automation, retailers of any size can keep shelves stocked and tidy. At the National Retail Federation show earlier this year, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich demonstrated Tally, the world’s first robotic, autonomous, shelf-auditing and analytics solution for retail from San Francisco-based Simbe Robotics. Tally performs the laborious task of auditing shelves for out-of-stock items, low stock items, misplaced items and pricing errors.

Powered by an Intel® NUC with a Core i7 inside and equipped with RealSense cameras, Tally can autonomously navigate a store. Tally can monitor stock levels, ensuring that products are always available, correctly displayed and accurately priced.

How It Rolls

According to Simbe Robotics, Tally is equipped with a charging dock that it can autonomously navigate back to between scans, allowing for continuous operation. The robot includes a suite of sensors enabling it to operate reliably and safely in retail environments while capturing information on the state of merchandise in the store.

The robot captures data and sends it securely to the cloud for processing and analysis. The data is processed through both an API and front-end application, along with specific recommendations to improve store performance to stakeholders. In addition, Tally can be integrated into a retailers’ existing IT systems. Tally is built upon the open source Robot Operating System (ROS).

IoT retail Simbe retail

Photo: Simbe Robotics

Tally stands 38 inches tall and has an adjustable and modular mast of sensors for capturing shelf data. The overall height is variable, depending on the retailer's shelf height requirements. Tally weighs approximately 30 lbs., and it can be easily moved to an optimal docking location within a retail store's floor plan.

Tally is not the only game in town in retail robotics. According to Intel iQ, shoppers who visit a Lowe’s Home Improvement store might be greeted by NAVii robotic staff, aka LoweBots, made by Fellow Robots. The bots can help customers with simple questions as well as scan inventory and capture real-time data.

“We designed the NAVii robot to make the shopping experience easier for consumers—simplifying the process of finding the product they’re looking for—while also managing the back-end and keeping shelf inventory up-to-date for the retailer,” said Marco Mascorro, CEO of Fellow Robots.

Keeping Tally

Watch a video of Tally in action in a store. Tally is currently in trial with several North American retailers. For information regarding pricing and pilot deployment programs, contact sales@simberobotics.com or visit www.simberobotics.com/.

Shiny New Opportunity: Smart Mirrors

Create: 04/25/2017 - 18:25
IoT retail smart mirrors

Photo: Intuit/Firm of the Future

 

Smart mirrors are one of the latest IoT innovations that can connect individuals to applicable customized content in a matter of seconds. With voice-activated commands, a smart mirror can listen and respond, allowing individuals to multitask and get relevant real-time content, all hands-free.

One of the first working smart mirror projects was Google engineer Max Braun’s invention, which began as a personal DIY project. Using a two-way mirror, display panel, some electronic components and a controller board, Braun was able to build a very polished end result, with functionality that competes with some of the best IoT products made by manufacturers.

To power his mirror, Braun first used Chromecast, then a Nexus player, and finally an Amazon Fire TV Stick to generate automatic updates that go along with “OK, Google” voice commands used by Google Home. Behind the looking glass, Braun's mirror display hardware is only a few millimeters thick, and the Fire TV stick—which is lodged inside the medicine cabinet—runs the display. Android code coordinates the information on screen.

His goal was to create automated updates for individuals to view as they carry out their morning and evening routines. Braun’s smart mirror is able to display a short portfolio of helpful information, including weather updates, news headlines via a feed from Associated Press (AP), traffic updates and personal reminders.

Scratching the Surface

The market for smart mirrors already has a shiny profitable future. According to Persistence Market Research, the global smart mirror market had an estimated value of $386.8 million in 2015 and is expected to witness a “healthy” CAGR from 2016 to 2022.

In 2016, the application of smart mirrors in the automobile industry was the most prevalent of any other industry, but analysts have noted there will be a large shift toward increased usage in the residential industry from 2016 to 2022. In terms of regional distribution, the North America region has the highest percentage of market volume and value for smart mirrors in comparison to demand in Europe, Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, and Latin America.

Memory Mirrors

Smart mirrors aren’t just for daily bathroom newsfeeds. They also have potential to become valuable resources in the healthcare industry as a mechanism for programmed reminders for individuals to take their medicine. Industrial engineers on the Behance platform are showcasing a specific type of smart mirror and medicine cabinet combination that displays reminders for morning, afternoon and evening pills. It indicates what shelves those pills can be found in the cabinet behind the mirror. In addition to the pill intake reminders, individuals can tap the virtual pill reminders on the mirror to access information about each type of pill and learn more about dosage and other useful health-related information.

smart mirror healthcare Behance.net

Photo: Behance.net

Other applications of the smart mirror include locations in malls, workplace conference rooms, showrooms for clients, museums and retail locations to create an interactive experience for customers. At Intuit’s recent Innovation Gallery event in New York, it showed a mirror for small and medium-sized retail businesses that displays weather, time and date along with inventory information. Intuit notes that having this type of “ambient intelligence” in real time and on a daily basis would be quite valuable for a small business owner to see before heading to work. 

In addition to voice control, smart mirrors can also be body controlled. For example, the MemoryMirror, developed by MemoMi and powered by Intel® Core i7 processors, lets shoppers virtually try on clothes and check from every angle how they look in that dress. Founded by California-based Salvador Nissi Vilcovsky, the Memory Mirror allows shoppers to digitally change the colors of the garments and share their choices with friends via email and social media. They can also record seven-second videos of themselves and compare them side-by-side to see what style or color suits them best.

smart mirror retail Intel

Photo: Intel/MemoryMirror

Looking into Development

Solution providers who want to offer smart mirrors will find no shortage of partnering opportunities, from specialized niche players to large manufacturers. According to Persistence Market Research, some of the leading companies in the development, sale and programming of smart mirrors include ad notam AG, Alke, Evervue, Gentex Corporation, Magna International Inc., Panasonic Corporation, Pro Display, Séura, Tech2o, Samsung and Toshiba.

Watch the video of Memory Mirror, the body-controlled mirror powered by Intel. Learn more about the design of the smart mirror for healthcare or find out about Intuit’s SMB prototype on display at the Innovation Gallery.

Accelerating Retail Transformation with AI

Create: 04/25/2017 - 16:42

Data is becoming a driving force in retail transformation. So much so that Gartner says that "by 2018, retailers engaged in IoT partnerships with major manufacturers will take significant market share from competitors due to direct connections with consumer lives." Solution providers need to know how AI and the data it gathers are powering the retail revolution and enabling lower labor cost, improved customer service, and personalized in-store experiences.

Armed with this information, you'll have everything you need to get ahead--and stay ahead--of disruption as you prepare for the future of retail.

Download the Intel report 

IoT-Based Shopping Carts Offer Shopping Intelligence

Create: 04/12/2017 - 17:13
DASH robot retail

Photo: Five Elements Robotics

 

All retailers, whether online or brick-and-mortar, understand the importance of providing an easy shopping experience, knowing that doing so increases the likelihood of having return customers. Conversely, sellers also know the reality that a poor shopping experience—online or in a store—causes customers to abandon a purchase and walk away empty-handed. In fact, according to a recent Pymnts.com Checkout Conversion Index survey, 40 percent of online shoppers leave their carts without making a purchase because of problems with the shopping experience.

Wendy Roberts, CEO of Five Elements Robotics in Wall, NJ, saw a similar walk-away pattern in physical stores. She noted in an interview with Pymnts.com that one of the most serious problems customers encounter when visiting a store is not finding the goods they’re interested in buying.

“If a customer fails to find items on their shopping list, the physical shop could risk its own failure,” she said. Roberts noted that according to research, 85 percent of people will leave a store and not buy anything if they can’t find what’s on their list.

Dashing Around the Store

Her solution: build a better cart, or more specifically, a smart IoT-based shopping cart that knows what’s on every shelf in a store. Five Elements Robotics has developed an intelligent, self-propelled shopping cart named DASH that features an on-board tablet. The cart allows customers to choose a shopping list from their smart device or type in their list manually, then it goes to work.

The cart is equipped with a series of IoT sensors and cameras that allow it to map where items on a shopper’s list are in a store and even pinpoint their positions on the store shelf. Once the customer loads their shopping list, DASH will lead them to specific areas of the store using the most effective route. DASH also gathers data about the shopper’s buying habits, so targeted advertisements are displayed on the tablet based on the shopper’s buying history. When the shopping is done, customers don’t have to wait in a checkout line. Rather, they pay for the items on the cart’s display.

DASH tablet retail

Photo: Five Elements Robotics

DASH’s job doesn’t end at the door. The smart cart can follow customers back to their vehicle, so they can load the goods into their car. Once the customer unloads DASH, it automatically returns to a docking station in the store and sets up in the ready position, waiting for the next customer.

Competing with Online Stores

Roberts notes that customers like the “wow factor” of having a robotic cart escort them around a store. She says it is an effective way for brick-and-mortar merchants to compete with online retailers. Roberts anticipates that some customers will look for shopping carts over sales associates before starting their shopping. “The cart is right there when they walk in, and it’s the first thing they grab.”

The company also touts the advantages retailers gain from adding a dash of IoT to the shopping experience. The cart is designed to:

  • Increase sales
  • Enlarge and expand customer base and customer satisfaction
  • Reduce operating costs
  • Reduce losses from theft
  • Provide real-time inventory data and analytics.

DASH is scheduled to go into production in the next few months and will be in a handful of supermarkets around the country later this year for trial testing.

Business and Consumer Robots

Five Elements Robotics is developing a fleet of robots. It has already released another robotic product, named Budgee™, that can follow users wherever they go and carry their things, such as suitcases or bags. In addition, the company is also developing a nanny assistant robot, 5e NannyBot, that can help parents monitor kids remotely. And the company is working on other robotic products for the hospitality industry aimed at helping janitorial staff.

Learn more about DASH and watch videos of it on a shopping trip.

Proactive Digital Display Aims to Drive Brand Engagement

Create: 04/06/2017 - 19:22

Photo: VSBLTY

 

We’ve all walked by the in-store drink cooler, trying to make the important decision of which beverage is calling our name behind those glass doors. Now, with a new type of real-time smart marketing, retailers can throw in a dose of product branding—and even a coupon—at the point of decision.

Retail technology and marketing company VSBLTY has developed a set of IoT technologies that allows retailers to drive more sales by adding interactive marketing on the cooler doors. VSBLTY turns a regular glass cooler front into an interactive brand experience aimed at engaging consumers, differentiating brands and capturing consumer information at the point of consideration. With 1080p video, touch screen and physical detection capabilities, VSBLTY provides multi-level messaging, engagement tracking and traffic detection.

VSBLTY IoT cooler

Photo: Twitter @IntelIoT

VSBLTY has developed two brand engagement technologies, VisionCaptor™ and DataCaptor™. VisionCaptor is for use on a retailer’s glass panel doors, and it uses sophisticated facial recognition and data capture technology to deliver sales metrics. DataCaptor is the company’s end-cap data capture application.

Beyond Digital Signage

Available as a turnkey solution for in-store coolers, VSBLTY allows consumers to interact with the display and manipulate content by swiping the screen. The technology allows the retailer to deliver:

  • Demographic-specific content. The technology recognizes various physical attributes of the person at the glass door, so the retailer can deliver content specifically designed for individual viewing based on age, race, gender, location and time of day.
  • Offers and promotions. The retailer can continue the conversation with the buyer through special offers and instant digital coupons delivered to their mobile devices.
  •  Real-time data capture. VSBLTY captures point-of-purchase data on consumer traffic, engagement and interaction, consumer age, and gender, providing factual (vs. estimated) data.

Facial Recognition

VSBLTY has developed Facialanalytics™, which combines facial recognition with real-time, cloud-based analytics and emotion detection. It can identify people in milliseconds, whether they are alone, in a crowd of people, or in motion.

The solution uses VECTOR™ technology to detect one or more human faces in an image along with face attributes (including age, gender, pose, smile, facial hair) that contain machine learning-based predictions of facial features. The facial verification can check the likelihood that two faces belong to the same person.

The proactive digital signage facial verification will also search persons enrolled in a database and in stored video archives, so it can send a personal message when the customer returns for a store visit. It uses a cloud infrastructure for rapid matching, and the system can also send alert notifications for in-store security enforcement.

To see how the technology works on a cooler, visit vsblty.net

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