There is no doubt that artificial intelligence has many benefits. It frees people from repetitive, predictable tasks that could be more easily and safely completed by machines and AI. This would allow people to work on tasks that depend on the human brain's ability to handle ambiguity. However, freeing people from basic and repetitive tasks could mean massive job losses for factory workers, vehicle drivers, retail sales people, restaurant workers, and many more. Some of those people will be able to turn to alternative careers but a large segment of people could be permanently out of work.
Walmart delivered another blockbuster quarter fueled by strong online sales growth and an uptick in its food business. The Arkansas-based company said e-commerce sales surged 50 percent in the fiscal third quarter, while same-store sales were up 2.7 percent. The world's largest retailer has been pursuing a digitally focused growth strategy for the last year, which includes an aggressive push into online grocery and increased capital spending on digital supply chain capabilities and in-store technology. Walmart chief executive Doug McMillon noted that a series of strategic initiatives paid off last quarter, including expanded online grocery pickup, and the launch of mobile express returns. McMillon also highlighted the company's use of aisle-roaming robots to improve out-of-stock issues and price discrepancies in its stores.
There's still more than a week until Black Friday. But the deals are here already. The Black Friday phenomenon – which already stretches over the following weekend and into Cyber Monday – grows each year, taking up more days and more focus. That is matched by companies who are more and more desperate to show off their deals, including Amazon. This year, the company has launched its Black Friday page with eight days left to go.
Artificial intelligence might just spawn a whole new style trend: call it "predictive fashion." In a paper published on the ArXiv, researchers from the University of California, San Diego, and Adobe have outlined a way for AI to not only learn a person's style but create computer-generated images of items that match that style. The system could let retailers create personalized pieces of clothing, or could even be used to help predict broader fashion trends. First, the researchers trained a convolutional neural network (CNN) to learn and classify a user's preferences for certain items, using purchase data scraped from Amazon in six categories: shoes, tops, and pants for both women and men. This type of recommender model is common in the online retail world, usually showing up in an "Other items you might like" area at the bottom of a page.
Last year, Amazon opened its first convenience store embedded with its "just walk out technology." Located in Seattle, the Amazon Go store, which lets shoppers walk in, load up on the items they want and walk out without having to pay for the items in a checkout line, has been testing its technology with Amazon employees. Now, as Bloomberg reports, the company has worked through some of the hangups with the technology and is making moves towards opening its store and others to the public. In March, the Wall Street Journal reported that while the Amazon Go store did well with a small amount of customers who were shopping fairly slowly, it couldn't keep up when there were more than 20 shoppers in the store at once. The store uses cameras, sensors and deep learning algorithms to track shoppers as they move around, log which items they take and charge them once they leave. Those technical bugs pushed the public opening of the store from an initial projection of early 2017 to an undetermined future date.
Personalized experiences are a hot topic these days. Certain types of businesses have become very skilled at delivering personalized service. Think about a hotel you've stayed at before that welcomes you back and remembers that you liked a certain type of pillow, a specific newspaper and a corner room. The experience is becoming more and more common, and this type of service is crossing over into many other industries, especially retail. When a customer walks into a retail store, the salesperson has two choices: simply ring up a purchase, or truly help the customer get what he or she really needs.
Get ready to see more robots cruising the aisles at stores. Bossa Nova Robotics just raised $17.5 million to help it build out its line of inventory-scanning retail robots. The funding round comes fresh off of a deal the startup inked with Walmart last month that will put Bossa Nova's automated store clerks in 50 of the big-box chain's stores. Investors behind the round include Intel Capital, WRV Capital, and Lucas Venture Group. The news brings Bossa Nova's total funding to date to $41.7 million.
Bossa Nova, which makes autonomous shelf-scanning service robots for retail customers, just closed a $17.5 million Series B round. That brings Bossa Nova's total funding to $41.7 million. The funding announcement comes on the heels of a recently-announced partnership with Wal-Mart, which is testing Bossa Nova's autonomous inventory-scanning robots at 50 stores. The days of the shop clerk with the scanner gun could be numbered. Bossa Nova is positioning itself well.
Alibaba's sales from Saturday's Singles Day event exceeded 25 billion dollars, more than quadruple what Americans spent last year during Black Friday. While the majority of those sales undoubtedly came via online purchases, the company also quietly experimented with an AI-powered project designed to woo offline shoppers. FashionAI was developed by Alibaba researchers in order to provide a recognizable interface for customers to use while trying on clothes. It's a basic screen interface that uses machine-learning to make clothing and accessory suggestions to customers based on the items they are trying on. There's no camera; it uses information embedded in the item's tag to make the recommendations.
Cyber Monday is a few weeks away, but it doesn't hurt to be prepared, especially with Amazon deals. The online retailer has not specified what exactly it will offer on Cyber Monday, but it will most likely reveal the deals closer to the day. Meanwhile, Amazon launched its "Black Friday Deals Store" last week, a countdown event packed with deals leading up to the shopping day. For those who want to get a head start on planning their shopping, here are some items Amazon could have deals on during Cyber Monday, Nov. 27 Amazon usually lowers its prices on its devices, like Echo gadgets and Kindles, on big shopping days. During Cyber Monday last year, and on Prime Day this summer, the online retailer slashed prices for Amazon devices.