Researchers at International Business Machines‘ (NYSE:IBM) Research Lab in Haifa, Israel, seem to have been inspired by JARVIS, the AI construct in the hugely popular Iron Man movies. The research lab has announced an augmented reality smartphone application that helps users identify products that meet their criteria such as dietary requirements, budget, identify sales and promotions, etc.
The app is still in a prototype stage and has a huge advantage over the rest of the applications in the space as it does not rely on QR codes and has adapted image processing technologies used in facial recognition, color and shape matching and comparison to products nearby. It recognizes the products based on the pictures taken by the smartphone and then appends details that the user needs on top of the picture. It can be used to scan multiple products at the same time and can process more than one product in an image which is a significant improvement over scanning individual QR codes. 
Retail Analytics Opportunity
The app helps create a detailed profile of the user. The user can enter the details desirable to him/her such as sugar restrictions, low fat, allergies, pricing, etc. and then simply scan a shopping aisle and the app indicates which product meets the user criteria.
Considering the size of most super and hyper markets and the vast choice available to the customer, the ability of the app to zero-in on the product fitting user criteria quickly can save the customer a lot of time. Shoppers also get quick access to product information available on the Internet.
Retailers can also use the app to provide incentives to customers with loyalty programs and digital coupons. The biggest opportunity lies in retail analytics as retailers can gain an understanding of customer preferences in real-time. This allows them to suggest related products in other aisles that the customer is looking for. In short this is like an Amazon product recommendation algorithm, but for groceries.
IBM claims that the suggestions will be tailored mainly for in-store use, and hence wont be intrusive or annoying.
We currently have a $223 Trefis price estimate for IBM, which is ~15% above the current market estimate.Notes:
- IBM Brings Augmented Reality To The Shopping Aisle, www.gizmag.com, July 3, 2012 [↩]