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Tesco Trialling AR Stores for Holidaymakers

British supermarket giant Tesco is trialling a new form of augmented reality shopping, with kiosks located in major airports, to encourage those coming back from holiday to browse a wide selection of goods, and order groceries to be delivered when they reach home.

It is a long way from VR-based shopping, but an equally long way from the traditional type of supermarket where you browse the aisles looking for what you require. The first prototype, which Tesco are calling the UK’s first interactive virtual grocery store, has opened at in Gatwick’s North Terminal.

It's the second such store the company has opened world wide. A prototype was launched last year in the much more technologically adventuresome population of South Korea. It generated more than enough interest for the company to see if it would work as well in its home country.

The idea is that each store consists of four upright electronic displays modelled after upright freezers. Where the glass of the freezer would be, is a large touch-screen flat-panel display, which the customers can interact with, changing the display to various different types of product. In total, there are only 80 products available, all of which are typical grocery shopping essentials. After all, this is expressly targeted at people returning home, who do not wish to return home to an empty kitchen.

In addition, a smartphone is required to interact with the display. Customers need to download the Tesco app from the App Store, Google Play or Android Market. This takes around  2 minutes. After that, they have to register with Tesco's standard online shopping store if they are not already a customer, entering the relevant personal information. Once that is done, they can start shopping, using the phone to select their desired purchases.

Using Tesco's app, the customer points their phone's camera at the 'freezer' display units, and the phone captures the image of what they are pointing it at. After a brief delay to ensure this is the item they would actually like, the phone app automatically adds the item to their shopping basket on Tesco's home website. The customer can then take as many items as they like, and then proceed to book a delivery date any time (subject to availability) anywhere up to three weeks in the future. They will have to be in, to take the delivery when it actually arrives.

The virtual store will be open for business in Gatwick Airport’s North Terminal departure lounge during the two busiest weeks of the year, from 6th August – 19th August 2012. Staff will be on hand to help customers with the scanning and ordering process on their smartphones. After the 19th, the store will be dismantled, whilst the data it has gathered will be analysed to see if it is worth opening more of these stores.

Overall, there is a lot of rigmarole involved in the AR store, and many points at which the process could – and likely should – be streamlined. Still, it is a worthy attempt to compliment the traditional supermarket with an augmented reality hybrid. Offering nowhere near the benefits of a true VR store, it is still a great idea for those who are travel weary, and do not relish the trip to an ordinary supermarket on their way home.


Fed up of coming home from holiday to an empty fridge?

UK's first interactive virtual grocery store

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