Visitors to Henn-na, a restaurant outside Nagasaki, Japan, are greeted by a peculiar sight: their food being prepared by a row of humanoid robots that bear a passing resemblance to the Terminator.
The “head chef,” incongruously named Andrew, specializes in okonomiyaki, a Japanese pancake. Using his two long arms, he stirs batter in a metal bowl, then pours it onto a hot grill. While he waits for the batter to cook, he talks cheerily in Japanese about how much he enjoys his job. His robot colleagues, meanwhile, fry donuts, layer soft-serve ice cream into cones, and mix drinks. One made me a gin and tonic.
H.I.S., the company that runs the restaurant, as well as a nearby hotel where robots check guests into their rooms and help with their luggage, turned to automation partly out of necessity. Japan’s population is shrinking, and its economy is booming; the unemployment rate is currently an unprecedented 2.8 percent. “Using robots makes a lot of sense in a country like Japan, where it’s hard to find employees,” CEO Hideo Sawada told me.
As grocery e-commerce gets more personal, Diego Maniloff of Unata says it’s time for retailers to turn their efforts to voice recognition technology.
2017 has been an incredible year for grocery retail. Companies like Amazon and Walmart are relentlessly innovating ways to heighten convenience and strengthen the presence of digital in grocery shopping, and it’s challenging other retailers to do the same. As we enter this new competitive era of grocery shopping, retailers should turn their attention to a technology that has the power to truly revolutionize the way we shop: voice technology.
It is estimated that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be done by voice alone. With consumer adoption already underway, it won’t be long before smart speakers like Amazon Alexa and Google Home become our go-to for search, inspiration and, most importantly, shopping. As consumer habits and expectations shift with the rise of voice technology, so must grocery retail.
However, voice assistants pose an interesting challenge. Unlike smartphones, computers and tablets, they lack a visual interface and for that reason they are unforgiving when it comes to accuracy of results. Gone are the days of shopper patience when sifting through search results. Sitting and listening to a voice assistant list over 20 different varieties of apples will feel drawn out, painful, and to be honest, incredibly frustrating.
For that reason alone, personalization is paramount. To provide a seamless customer experience, grocers need to understand two things. First, there is only one answer. Second, you need to draw on past behaviors and orders to get that one answer right. Consider this: Your shopper realizes she’s out of yogurt, so she asks her voice assistant to add more to her shopping list. Enter your personalization engine. Instead of asking which yogurt your shopper prefers or listing available options, the voice assistant can confirm in one response that her favorite yogurt — which she purchases on a regular basis — has been added to her list.
Diego Maniloff is the vice president of tech innovation at Unata, the leading provider in 1-to-1 digital solutions for grocers. He is a computer scientist from Argentina specialized in the art of personalization technologies. He received his BS/MEng degrees in Telecommunications Engineering from Universidad Blas Pascal in Córdoba, and upon becoming a Fulbright scholar he joined the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. After completion of his MS, Diego became a research fellow at MIT, focusing on applied AI and data analysis. At Unata, Diego led the engineering team for five years, during which he built the award-winning personalization engine from scratch. Today, he oversees research and development of emerging technologies that have the potential to shape the digital grocery industry.Learn more at www.unata.com.
To promote the upcoming season of “Top Chef,” Bravo has teamed with on-demand food delivery service Postmates to bring meals from former contestants to your door–with the help of robots.
Bravo’s Top Chef + Postmates robot delivery Photo by Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging
Postmates introduced food delivery by robots earlier this year in Washington D.C. and is in the process of bringing the ‘bots to the L.A. area. So the company got together with Bravo to help get the word out with ‘bots that will deliver food from the restaurants of “Top Chef” alumni to Angelenos.
Today through Friday, consumers who order through Postmates.com or through the Postmates app can score free deliveries from any restaurant on the platform by using the code TOPCHEF. Among the restaurants are the newly debuted “Bravo’s Top Chef x Postmates” collection, establishments run by former Top Chef contestants: Border Grill (Susan Feniger); Da Kikokiko (Brooke Williamson), Fritzi (Neal Fraser), Grub (Betty Fraser), Lukshon (Sang Yoo), Mexikosher (Katsuji Tanabe), Sack Sandwiches (Michael Voltaggio), Sweetfin Poke (Dakota Weiss), Wolf (Marcel Vigneron).
Postmates’s L.A. rovers, created by Robby Technologies, will be delivering select orders to customers. Customers who score robot deliveries will be put into a drawing to receive a free year of Postmates Unlimited, which allows for free deliveries of orders of $20 and up.
Previously, Bravo has promoted Top Chef through pop-up restaurants, food trucks and tasting events, but the robot deliveries take it next level.
“We are always looking for innovative ways to bring Bravo’s ‘Top Chef’ into people’s homes and the usage of robots was a new and exciting opportunity that taps into the future of food delivery,” says Maria DeLuca, senior vice president, consumer and trade marketing at Bravo Media.
Bravo’s “Top Chef” Season 15 premiere airs on Thursday, December 7 at 10 pm ET/PT.
General Motors is launching a new in-vehicle app named Marketplace that will allow drivers to pay for goods such as gasoline or coffee and schedule service through their infotainment systems.
The automaker expects the free technology, which it is calling an industry first, to quickly expand from about a dozen offerings, such as ordering Dunkin’ Donuts or reserving a table at TGI Fridays, to other services such as Starbucks orders and dealership services, including oil changes.
“We are using it also to improve how our customers interact with the vehicle and the dealership network,” says Santiago Chamorro, GM vice president of global connected customer experience. He emphasized the connections are secure, and Marketplace is not meant to be an in-vehicle digital billboard.
Unlike many applications, Chamorro says Marketplace is designed to work while people are driving.
In-vehicle marketplaces and app-based services have been discussed for years. Offerings such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto mirror smartphone apps onto the vehicle’s infotainment screens but do not complete financial transactions.
GM is remotely sending Marketplace wirelessly to all 2017 and 2018 model-year vehicles equipped with the automaker’s new MyLink infotainment system. Owners have to agree to the update, which the automaker began to send last week. A data plan is not required.
Having unveiled its own version of a smartwatch last year, Jim Beam gets in on this year’s holiday gift must-have with a bourbon-themed version of a digital home assistant.
The so-called “World’s First Intelligent Bourbon Decanter” is called “Jim” (well, of course) hand is voiced by the brand’s “Master Distiller,” Fred Noe, who serves up replies like “Any damn way you please” to the question “what’s the best way to enjoy bourbon?” Unlike Alexa, Jim may not be able to tell you weather, but (as seen here in the promotional video, by Olson Engage) he’ll chat to you about whisky and pour you a drink.