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Machine aided card counting is generally banned in most casinos or illegal. If they catch you, there will likely be repercussions. Unaided card counting is generally discouraged and if a place suspects you of counting, they might start by politely asking you to leave. Perfect card counting in certain situations confers to the counter a slight advantage. The casino wants you to play only so you can lose to it.

I’m wondering about where else machine augmentation will provide an advantage to the user and will lead to conflict. One that comes to mind is in physical retail. After reading Paco Underhill’s Why We Buy and Call of the Mall, I became fascinated with how retailers use psychology to increase the dollar amount of the shopping cart at check out. They set up different zones in stores, show different products at different heights, select special lighting, etc. It’s wild.

For some time, retail stores also had an information advantage over consumers. Unless you had price shopped before or had competitors’ flyers, you didn’t really know if the price was the same. Now, you can pull out your phone and look at the price on Amazon (sorry, Home Depot, you’ve lost a lot of sales from me even after I visited your store because of this).

But what if you could potentially get a lot more information than just price? What if you could gauge the popularity of a product based on what you observe on store shelfs? What if your observation was combine with that of other customers visiting the store?

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Last year, Walmart announced robot inventory clerks that use machine vision to look at how well shelves are stocked. This could save lots of human time and inaccurate manual counting. What if similar information could be gained from those using camera active glasses like North?

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What if either people walking around streaming pictures to a source or those taking pictures or using AR on a store shelf could have their information pooled so that over time, we could get a sense of how that something like a store shelf has changed and gain insight on product sell through.

If you knew sell through rates for products in Walmart and you’re a competitor, would that provide an unfair advantage? If so, could a bricks and mortar establishment start enforcing policies to limit the collection of this data even if it’s done passively? To what extent can they enforce this?

Maybe the new policy will be “look but don’t learn.”

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Independent daily thoughts on all things future, voice technologies and AI. More at http://linkedin.com/in/grebler

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