As consumer technology brings new conveniences, retailers and brands are finding they have to work harder to stay on top of emerging innovations. Those attending the recent CES event in Las Vegas found a gold mine of self-service products designed to help retailers and brands stay relevant as e-commerce continues to grab more of the retail market.
This year, for the first time, CES, formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show, featured a dedicated exhibition space called the High Tech Retailing Marketplace, offering attendees a place to experience the transformation in retail technology first hand.
Self-serve kiosks, along with smartphones and tablets, have emerged as a solution for brands that have recognized the need to have both a physical and online presence. Where many brick-and-mortar retailers are looking to expand their e-commerce capabilities, e-commerce retailers are discovering the need for a physical presence.
Many of the exhibits in the High Tech Retailing Marketplace and elsewhere on the show floor featured self-service technology designed to enable retailers and brands to integrate their physical and digital offerings.
Virtual reality, augmented reality, robotics, biometrics, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, drones and other technologies are all being applied to make customer experiences more interactive.
The following is a summary of the self-service offerings on the show floor.
Perch merges the digital with the physical
The Perch interactive display soluton combines shelves with a touchscreen that engages shoppers in making their purchase decisions. The touchscreen ranges from 24 to 64 inches, while the shelves are available in varying sizes, for demonstrating products.
The 3D sensing technology detects when shoppers touch or pick a product from one of the shelves, activating an interactive experience about the product.
The system's campaign management and analytics software enable brands to deliver and update mixed-reality shopping experiences while simultaneously capturing shopper interactions to allow for data-driven decisions on changing the content.
Clients can update digital content remotely across a fleet of displays.
YouCam 3D face and AR technology
An attendee uses the YouCam Makeup augmented reality kiosk that allows customers to see how they will look using a company's makeup.
The YouCam app from Perfect Corp. uses facial mapping to develop an AR image from a photo or print image of a consumer that enables them to see what they would look like with new makeup and hair colors.
Users can take pictures of their AR image and share it on social media.
The app is designed for brands and retailers interested in enabling customers to test makeup and hair colors without actually applying them to their face or hair.
The YouCam website also has daily live streaming tutorials about the brand's products. The company offers online consultations and an AR training platform for brands to host private training events.
Existing YouCam partners include Estee Lauder, Macy's, Lancome, Loreal, Yves Stain Laurent, Laura Mercer Bobbi Brown and Ardell.
Memomi Labs virtual memory mirror
Elita Khan demonstrates the Memomi Labs virtual mirror.
The virtual memory mirror from Memomi Labs enables shoppers to change makeup or the color of their clothing without having to actually apply the makeup or put on the clothing. The touchscreen mirror records the makeup artist's application and sends it to the customer.
A customer can try on different sets of glasses, compare them side by side and share them with friends.
The mirror's light system simulates natural sunlight to ensure the right color appears on the screen.
Vntana kiosk projects interactive holograms
A kiosk from Vntana projects interactive holograms on a screen that enable users to see themselves interacting with AR objects. The platform is designed to enable brands to provide an interactive customer experience.
Natascha French presents a virtual reality kiosk at the Vntana booth that allows customers to see themselves interacting with AR objects.
The customer first enters their information on a tablet or a kiosk. The customer can then share their experiences on social media.
The kiosk collects customer data from social media.
Where the hologram is the "wow" factor, the back end software provides lead generation for clients.
Outernets brings online personalization to physical space
Outernets' retail media platform utilizes machine learning and computer vision to identify characteristics of the viewer and change the display to reflect the most appropriate content. The digital screen can transform a storefront window into interactive experiences and allow for targeted advertising.
Adam Samaan, left, and Omer Golan show the Outernets screen that provides a physical presence for e-commerce retailers.
Clients can create ads based on demographic information and other relevant data, such as weather or time of day. The software provides data analytics and ROI tracking.
The solution can provide a physical presence for an ecommerce retailer.
Virtual Mate fitness training kiosk
The Virtual Mate kiosk from IM Healthcare provides exercise instruction and feedback on the user's exercise progress. The kiosk has a 32-inch touch monitor, beam projector, motion detection sensor and camera, near field communication reader and 2-channel speaker. By recognizing a person's motion, the kiosk can instruct them in the correct posture for a specific exercise and provide periodic evaluation of their exercise ability. The system is designed for fitness centers, schools, elderly care facilities and rehabilitation hospitals.
Suitable Technologies offers mobile telepresentation kiosk
The BeamPro 2 from Suitable Technologies can be used as a mobile communication kiosk for telepresentations. The BeamPro 2 comes with two 12MP cameras streaming in full HD with digital zoom; multiple 3D depth cameras; three speakers to provide a wider frequency range for lifelike sound; a digital microphone array featuring echo cancellation; sensors for obstacle detection; and six wheels allowing stable movement and rotation in place.
Add-on accessories are available which can enhance virtual training or remote patient care.
Shelfx smart shelves allow unattended retailing
Ran Margalit presents the Shelfx, a refrigerated glassfront merchandiser that activates an informational video when the customer picks an item from the shelf.
Shelfx offers an automated merchandising and inventorying merchandiser that uses weight sensing shelves and near field communication identification technology to allow unattended retailing. The technology enables consumers to walk up to shelves, present payment, take items from the shelves and get charged for the items taken. The shopper receives an email receipt detailing the purchase.
The cloud-based software lets consumers set up and manage their accounts online and lets merchants manage their operations with a mobile based management application.
The mobile app enables access from any internet connected device such as a tablet, smartphone or computer.
ViaTouch Media features intelligent shopper software
ViaTouch Media has introduced a glassfront merchandiser called Vicki that lets shoppers take product from a shelf and get automatically billed, thanks to the machine's sensors that detect when a product gets removed from a shelf.
A digital screen above the glassfront door plays videos that promote products in the machine. When the customer removes a product, a video plays content related to that particular product.
Tom Murn presents the Vicki machine from ViaTouch Media at the Voxx booth.
Users can sign up to pay for their purchases via a thumbprint or an iris image. The machine takes any payment tool — credit card, mobile payments or biometrics.
The system's software learns customers' product preferences and interacts with them audibly.
The customer can ask a question and the machine, through artificial intelligence, will answer.
The machine is designed for dispensing personal care, electronic accessories, snacks and other products.
PopCom gives e-commerce retailers a self-service presence
PopCom has developed a solution to allow e-commerce retailers to have a physical self-serve presence in the form of an interactive kiosk that uses facial recognition.
The facial recognition software ensures that customers are compliant with regulations when purchasing alcohol, pharmaceuticals or legalized marijuana.
Dawn Dickson presents a prototype of her PopStop machine at the PopCom booth to help e-commerce merchants sell and dispense their products.
The management software collects customer demographic information at the point of sale, along with monitoring inventory, capturing sales data and generating insights for lead generation.
The company will offer an API to allow existing kiosks to use the proprietary PopCom software.
Ultrahaptics delivers 'virtual touch' technology
Ultrahaptics offers "mid-air" technology that provides 3D visual imagery that consumers can not only see, but touch. Ultrahaptics' algorithms control ultrasound waves to create haptic sensations in mid air. The "virtual touch" technology uses ultrasonic speakers to project shapes and textures onto the user's hands.
The haptic technology has been combined with 3D imaging technology to create "haptic holograms" that give consumers haptic feedback when interacting with a display.
Omron harmonizes AI, robotics and sensing
Omron Electronic Components LLC presented its latest advancements in artificial intelligence, robotics, automation and sensing and control focusing on the harmony that can be achieved between humans and machines with interactive demonstrations.
Jacob Hicks, left, and Bill Chandler of Omron Electronic Components, LLC present a robot that can assist with tasks in manufacturing and warehouse operations.
An AI-equipped robot, "Forpheus," demonstrated how Omron technologies come together to create machines that can work in harmony with humans, helping to enhance and extend human capabilities. Forpheus uses sensing, control, artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics technologies.
Phonesoap mobile station cleans phones and tablets
The Mobile Device Disaffection Station from Phonesoap is a mobile station for cleaning phones and tablets. The mobile station is designed for health care facilities.
The Phonesoap UV-C light kills viruses, bacteria and other harmful germs. This light is harmful for human eyes, hence it must be applied within PhoneSoap's controlled environment.
David Jones from PhoneSoap presents a mobile device disaffection station that cleans phones and tablets.
Many of the exhibits at the Retail Innovation Lounge in the High Tech Retailing Marketplace were curated by Anne Marie Stephen, founder of kwolia, an advisory providing connections and insights between consumer driven industries and technology innovations bridging physical and digital worlds.
"I wanted to create a place where they (CES attendees) could have a meaningful conversation," Stephen told Kiosk Marketplace. "As our consumer behavior has shifted, why wouldn't our B2B behavior shift? It just follows that that would also shift."
Elliot Maras Elliot Maras is the editor of KioskMarketplace.com and FoodTruckOperator.com.