Kiwi businesses reinvent how we go to the supermarket

It might be the season for shopping, but the way we shop this time next year could totally different.

Two Kiwi businesses are trying to reinvent how we go to the supermarket. One wants to get rid of checkouts; the other wants to get rid of the store.

The virtual reality store is the brainchild of two Massey University students.

"A the moment we keep it small to test everything - the usability and also how everything is perceived by people - and later if everything is fine we want to extend it all," says Alexander Schnack.

On the shelves is a range of famous brands that you can pick up, read the labels and put in your basket.

The aim is to help food producers and sellers with market research.

"So what they could do is test new package designs to see if that sells more than the old ones, new products - test their position on shelves - difference price points," says Philip McReedy.

It is immersive; shoppers can check product ingredients and even throw them around the store.

Even though they're in an empty room, it's hard to break the habit of walking down the aisle.

Could this actually be the shop of the future? Not just yet.

"The idea is to have to replace catalogues," says Mr McReedy. "Catalogues are still in the '90s. They just have a search bar. So you could use this to replace online catalogues."

That's a while away. But another Kiwi start-up is on the verge of proving its tech, making shopping trolleys smart. Several small cameras recognise every product that is dropped in, adding it to the bill displayed on your phone.

"It delivers two factors - it can skip the checkout, but we can also offer a more personalised in-store customer experience," says IMAGR CEO William Chomley.

The cameras recognise the product even if it's obscured. They can do that because of the thousands of images being snapped of thousands of products. That data is fed to an artificial intelligence programme, which learns to recognise the products from every angle.

The room operates 24/7.

"We can do one supermarket in around 30 days, and given that the product offerings are homogenous across supermarkets, once you done one you can do them all," says Mr Chomley.

But it's a race against the biggest boy of retail. Amazon is already trialling a grab-and-go store in the US. IMAGR starts its trial this coming April.


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