Augmented Reality Vending Machines, and Other Glimpses of the Future of Retail

Posted By Guillaume Estegassy
Windows Embedded BG Lead for Japan

Earlier this month, we wrapped up a fantastic week at Retail Tech Japan (RTJ), celebrated on an incredibly warm Tokyo day. Equally warm was the reception from the press and the visitors to Microsoft’s "Delivering the Future of Retail Today" booth. Over 5,500 visitors came over the course of 4 days to attend demonstrations and presentations, and to marvel at amazing technological examples of what our partners can deliver with the power of Windows Embedded 8. Our major Japanese partners in the retail industry, Toshiba TEC, NEC and Fujitsu, also had a plethora of Windows Embedded solutions at their respective booths (or supermarket mockups!).

Visitors were particularly impressed with the number of demonstrations using the release preview of Windows Embedded 8 Industry. And in the case of Windows Embedded 8, touching is believing. The new generation of POS systems with their gesture-enabled, modern, rich Windows 8 applications made a positive impression on retail professionals.

One of the clear trends of the show was the prevalence of end-to-end cloud-based solutions for retail, many targeted at small- to mid-size retailers, who don’t have big IT investment capacity but want to benefit from the power of big data and the advances of technology previously only available to the bigger retailers. Smaller retailers interested in cloud-based solutions showed great interest in Windows Embedded combined with Windows Azure, and re-affirmed their need for flexibility, ease of deployment, device manageability and security.

Another trend, for the past year, is mobility. Fujitsu showed a great example of a small Bluetooth multifunction device (barcode scanner, credit card reader) sending information to a Fujitsu Windows 8-powered tablet mobile POS. These kinds of solutions are equally attractive to small and big retailers, as they help drive customer satisfaction (less waiting in line). But mobility is also very much the domain of line-of-business applications. Many retailers are developing rich applications for phones and connected devices as a way to extend the retail experience outside the store.

Driving these trends and reigning over the show, sometimes surreptitiously, was intelligent systems. Connectivity and data are the key pillars on which the next generation of retail solutions is being built, and I believe we are seeing the dawn of a promising era which will progressively revolutionize the retail experience. I am very excited as a consumer, but most of all to be a part of this change and help our partners and enterprise customers deliver their own “future of retail” solutions.

A few hours before the closing of RTJ, I stood close to a revolutionary vending machine distributed by AEON and running Windows Embedded (shown above). A crowd of people was gathered around it, as our friends from Intel Japan were showing its amazing features, such as augmented reality through Kinect for Windows, interactive digital signage, drink suggestions based on gender and age, etc. People were standing in front of it, mesmerized, lots of them harboring a big smile. If that is not a successful] vending machine, I don’t know what is!

Heading home later that day, as I was waiting on the train platform, I smiled as another Windows Embedded-based digital vending machine suggested, through its Kinect for Windows sensor, a fruit-flavored tea drink to a thirsty business woman as she was approaching. I couldn’t help but think about what that the next generation will bring. Perhaps next year a machine will tell me, “Hello Guillaume, welcome back! You look a bit tired today. How about a coffee?”

Looking forward to RTJ 2014!

Scala showed a quick restaurant-type intelligent systems solution with a POS running Windows Embedded 8 Industry, connected to two digital signage screens reacting dynamically to the POS information, and a Windows Embedded Server (solution is also Azure-enabled) on the backend. Next to it were a number of POS devices from NEC (fixed and mobile) as well as handheld terminals from Sharp, Panasonic and Casio.

Microsoft’s booth, in cooperation with Intel Japan, was a big presence at the show and attracted over 5,500 visitors eager to discover the new Windows 8 Embedded platforms, Azure, x86 retail tablets, as well as offerings from partners showcased at the booth.

Microsoft’s sessions were very popular, and showcased actual Windows 8 applications for retail. We also had a number of partner sessions with a deep dive on technologies within intelligent systems.

Toshiba TEC, one of our key partners in retail, was showcasing a supermarket mockup with Windows Embedded-based POS systems. No real food, unfortunately!

One of the most popular digital signage solutions (already deployed in the Akihabara district of Tokyo), this charming lady responds to voice thanks to Kinect for Windows technology running on Windows Embedded. She will give you directions and also answer your questions about stores, products, etc… She even blushes when you tell her she is cute. Of course I only know this because I saw other people do it!

A big star at the booth was AEON’s Windows Embedded vending machine with augmented reality, dynamic digital signage, Kinect facial and gesture recognition.

Fujitsu’s mobile solution, taking full advantage of Bluetooth and Microsoft Windows 8 tablets, combining portability with manageability and security.

Comments (0)

Skip to main content