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Can gesture control disrupt retail? A SXSW experiment

Beer Compass at SXSW 2014
Beer Compass at SXSW 2014
Credit Beer Compass

At the 2014 SXSW interactive festival, "Beer Compass" was demoed as a motion computing experiment in retail. Filling the gap between online and offline-use of technology, the device created a navigation tool to help shoppers, using gesture control technologies in store.

Juuso Myllyrinne of agency Pilot.is and Steve White of Digitail, believe that retail will integrate high end technologies such as movement rcognition in order to adapt to the changing modes of consumption. They attempted to prove this theory during a SXSW experiment.

It is the right time to experiment, according to them, and no interactive model is currently dominating the field. On the bright side for retailers, "68% of 18-25 years-old would rather buy clothes nd shoes in store", the two creatives said. However, interactive retail displays engage users 10 times longer than passive displays. So there is room for innovation in store. Today's shoppers want personalization and low prices from scale, according to their research.

Technology can improve the shopping experience, but can it drive revenue for retailers? In order to test their hypothesis, the two creatives built together "Beer Compass", a prototype tested in stores to help customers shop for beers. "There are a lot of technical considerations to build such a machine," Juuso Myllyrinne. explains. "2D technology is cheaper, but requires a lot of software. 3D is more data hungry and more expensive, but allows you to work with a lot of different frameworks such as Kinect SDK, Cinder..." he adds. Motion sensors are easy to find and implement and restricted to "passive activity measure".

The Beer Compass was built for less than 25,000 dollars according to them. It provides different types of data, both active and passive. It uses a hand movement recognition technology, and motion sensors that allow to identify the customer in a crowded and loud environment such as store.

Juuso Myllyrinne and Steve White say they have not gotten any hard numbers from the retailers who tested the product about whether the machine generated more sales or not. However, their research showed that beer consumption during the test period was increasing. "This is a model than can be scaled, because the software solution can be reused", Steve White explained. According to him, big retailers with several brands in their portfolio could benefit from this type of product.