Japanese supermarket watches you shop so AI can suggest more stuff to buy

What could possibly go wrong with this Fujitsu tech?

A Japanese supermarket has started analyzing customers' in-store behavior and feeding it to a generative AI to drive an avatar that makes real-time suggestions about stuff you might want to buy.

The Aruk Mitajiri supermarket, in the city of Hofu, started a trial of this arrangement yesterday, wielding tech from Fujitsu that uses video cameras to detect shoppers who linger at displays, compare multiple products, bend down towards a shop display, pick up a product, or respond to in-store content.

Observations of such behaviors are used to tune prompts for a generative AI manifested as a customized "Avatar concierge" that pumps out custom sales patter and/or content.

Fujitsu expects this process will result in customers returning to the shelves, confident of what they want to purchase and happy to splash the necessary wad of Yen.

The Japanese tech giant cooked this up in conjunction with a research group led by Naoto Onzo, director of the Institute of Marketing and Communication at Japan's Waseda University.

That team apparently advised Fujitsu that "warmth and competence, indicators of a customer service provider's personality and knowledge, as well as the design and functionality of the product, influence consumer buying decisions."

That insight led to the creation of a model that can "estimate the behavior transition probability of presenting customer service and promotional content based on the behavior and attribute data of individual customers analyzed by the human sensing technology."

Fujitsu reckons this is a good idea, because customers increasingly want "engaging, consumer-friendly experience" – but creating the content to deliver those takes time and money, and people to do the job.

AI can do it faster and cheaper.

What could possibly go wrong? Your correspondent often does the family shopping, which means I acquire bathroom products requested by the whole family. I have often stood transfixed in supermarket aisles, scanning for very specific terms on a bottle or box. I'm therefore fascinated to know what Fujitsu's tech will do when it spots a man shopping for products consumed only by women, or whether it can detect what remains of my hair and deduce that I'm probably not staring at the shampoo aisle and fondling the products there to meet my own needs.

The supermarket's trial of the tech runs until October 15. Fujitsu plans to launch a solution based on the trial during its 2023 financial year, which ends in on March 31, 2024. ®

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