New York-based ViaTouch has introduced a new solution to make the purchase of high-theft items easier for both shoppers and retailers. ViaTouch’s automated solution is dubbed Via Touch Intellishelf Cognitive Kinetic Interactions, or VICKI.
“VICKI is an AI-driven self-checkout device that auto inventories itself and also provides media at the point of sale,” Tom Murn, ViaTouch CEO, told The Shelby Report at the National Retail Federation (NRF) Big Show earlier this year. “You open the door with a credit card or a biometric purse that you can sign up (for with) your thumb, your eye, or with your credit card once. After that VICKI knows who you are, and you open the door.”
VICKI can be customized with a retailer’s branding and lighting, and it accepts a number of forms of payment, including credit cards, Apple Pay and thumb or optional iris scan.
VICKI even tracks its inventory automatically while it’s being restocked, so its products are secure against theft from employees as well.
“As soon as an employee fills it…it records them biometrically. They can’t say ‘it wasn’t me,’” said Murn. “They fill it, it checks against what it was supposed to get, so there’s no more inventorying manually from a person. It’s all done through computer vision and sensors.”
Besides keeping high-theft items secure but still accessible, VICKI also is able to interact with shoppers who might have questions about the items it contains.
“You can ask questions about the item, and VICKI will answer them,” said Murn. “You pick it up, you look at it, you’ll see the price of the item on your dashboard.”
VICKI has yet to make its supermarket debut. The company has run a successful pilot with Estee Lauder in a California mall, and now is meeting with “a couple big companies” about the possibility of using VICKI to secure razors, baby formula and other items along those lines, Murn said.
Competing with Amazon Go
The system has the potential to offer significant value to grocery retailers, especially as Amazon continues to expand its Go stores, Murn added.
“It’s creating more of the frictionless environment, the fun environment, to beat the internet,” he said. “People don’t wait in line for all those secure items or high-theft items. You put in VICKI and it turns it from an unpleasant, secured experience to a fun experience. Now the person not only gets the item without waiting in line, but they can pick up the item and ask questions about that particular item, get the right answers.”
It was VICKI’s potential to compete with frictionless retailers like Amazon Go that attracted First Data, a financial services company, to become an investor in ViaTouch.
“Because First Data was in so many supermarkets and a leader in technology, they wanted to bring a way for a store to bring Amazon Go to their supermarket and test it. And that’s what VICKI is. VICKI is an Amazon Go mini store,” said Murn.
Once VICKI is programmed to answer customers’ questions, it can operate independently, with no need for employee supervision.
“All of a sudden, we’ve introduced AI and automatic retail to a supermarket to make that experience better for their customer,” said Murn. “Put all the things in there that (retailers) want to sell 24 hours. They could take a section of their store and make it 24 hours—put all VICKIs there, and now they’re selling 24 hours with no labor.”