Eric Mantion

Tell Intel How Shopping Should Be Smarter

I’m sure we’ve all heard the expression: “a have 2 ears and 1 mouth because we should listen twice as much as we speak.” While that sounds good in concept, it is sometimes hard to do, especially when writing a blog, but that is what I would like to try to do today. The topic du Jour is: Smart Shopping. Specifically, using things like interactive kiosks, cameras, touch screens, and even gesture recognition to improve your shopping experience. And like any good toolbox, the more of the aforementioned tools we use, the more impressive the final solution could be. Let me attempt to get the conversation going by sharing with you a short video that we recently released, based on a demo we showed at last week’s NRF show:


As you can hopefully tell from the video, the “Beauty Spot” is an interactive kiosk that will help you understand better some of the cosmetic products that Macy’s has to offer, which is great, but I could see this moving to the “next step” so to speak.

For example, would you find it useful if you could sit down in something that feels like a professional makeup station, like they have for movie stars? Then using multiple cameras and other sensors, they could generate a computer generated model of your face, including your natural skin tone, but virtually “washing off” any makeup you are already wearing, starting with a clean slate if you will. Then it could get started with some different trial modes. For example, it could put on some fast pre-programmed options that you might be able to scroll through with just a wave of your hand (gesture recognition) like flipping through a magazine. If you come across an option you like, a quick “thumbs up” could put that into your favorites folder, so you could explore that option further. Or, if you really liked an option you could delve into it right there while the system remembers where you were for later. Perhaps you could even play with the option you selected, such a making the eye shadow a little lighter or perhaps your eyelashes a scooch longer. Tweak the settings to your heart’s content & then save it a one of your official looks. And, of course the major outcome of this effort is that, at the end, they “Beauty Computer” will tell you that, to get “Look #7” (from your list), you’ll need Lipstick A, Eyeliner B, Foundation C, etc., etc.


But this is just one example. From here, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine how there could be other, very similar efforts:

  • Hair Styles (including not only different cuts, but also colorings, permanents, etc.)
  • Clothing (the options are almost endless, but your body would become a virtual doll to be dressed)
  • Cars (pick your model & local painting companies could show you options)
  • Furniture (borrow a room sizer & parametric camera, then mix & match furniture to your heart’s content)
  • What else?

In the era of “online sales growing strongly” – the regular “brick & mortar” locations need to start fighting back or risk going out of business. By providing customers with something they can’t get from online (like a face/body/whatever models that they can get made in-store) so that they can continue to build on brand loyalty & try to secure repeat business. Some of the more forward-looking Brands/Companies like Levi’s have worked on using very high-end (read: Expensive) laser scans to measure the exact dimensions of women’s bodies. In theory, that is great, but in practice, it is cost prohibitive. But, with some much cheaper (but nearly as good) technology  like those found in Microsoft’s Kinect, you could see how national chains like Macy’s, JC Pennys, The Gap, etc. could turn 1 dressing room in every store into a “Make your Model” room where you wear a bikini or swimsuit & they model your body style not just for 1 brand of jeans, but a wide variety of different clothing – dresses, shorts, blouses, etc. so that you can get a quick feeling of what the “latest styles” would look like on you – not some silly, super-skinny super-model in Milan, Italy.


From the consumer experience – you can do more shopping, in less time – both on and off line, and get a greater feeling of “personalized” care. For the stores, they can build a more personal relationship with their customers, for a reasonable investment in technology, and build on that brand/store loyalty what will pay them dividends down the road. But this is all the semi-obvious, low-hanging fruit. Stuff that people have been talking about for a while. Here’s where (I hope) this gets interesting: What Do YOU Think Will Happen?

  • What is a current frustration that you have in your shopping experience that you think Technology could maybe fix?
  • How would you want stores/retailers/brands to use technology to treat you better & meet your needs more?
  • What type of shopping (clothes, food, pharmacy, etc.) feels antiquated & could really be “modernized” a bit?
  • What do you think “shopping in the future” will be like? The Jetsons? Buck Rogers? Mad Max?
  • How do YOU want “Smart Shopping” to make your life better?


Let us know in the comments below! I can’t wait to hear what you think!!

Or hit me on Twitter (@Geek8ive) or the whole team (@IntelSys)

Eric Mantion

About Eric Mantion

Eric is the Nerd Herder for Intel's Software & Services Group responsible for the Intel RealSense Community You can find him online at: - - | Eric graduated from the US Naval Academy, with a bachelor of science in Physics. He has served on Nuclear Powered Submarines and was attached to SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team ONE. He has worked in the Semiconductor Industry for over 10 years and has held positions as a Product Marketing Engineer, a Senior Industry Analyst, a Competitive Intelligence Analyst, and a Technology Evangelist. In whatever spare time he has, Eric loves spending working out (especially Beach Volleyball), tinkering with computers, dabbling with Linux, exploring Android, and playing video games (especially StarCraft II & DOTA 2)

8 Responses to Tell Intel How Shopping Should Be Smarter

  1. Henry M Wong says:

    Great Question- Overall, I think all of the methods of shopping I do today are antiquated. I had hoped our focus on human experience would have created a set of heuristics for us to deploy via technology. I think we’ve been very slow at trying to model or investigate this to tease out key issues. First and foremost, my shopping is configured by my main targets and then convenience/opportunistic items (e.g. “since I’m already there”, or “remember to look-at/get …”). If I was targeting COSTCO for my grocery list and was planning to go to Macy’s for a shirt sale, it would be nice if a device not only told me what’s grocery items are available, cost and local supermarket alternatives; but, would also highlight dress socks available at COSTCO, prices, and recommended itinerary. If low on gas, indicate gas prices or if suggest a costco location with a gas pump. If close to lunch or dinner, I would want to know what may be around the neighborhood or along the way to eat, especially if there are specific specials/promotions. This is just an example of the process we should go through to model the heuristics.

    • Eric Mantion says:

      Dear Henry, kind sir, I think are completely on the right track – I like everything you’ve said & I hope what you predict comes true – I think it would be great!

  2. Gerry K says:

    Some shoppers don’t want to talk with a person, so this kiosk idea is great. If you could somehow include a way for the kiosk to provide directions to “the next step” in the process, that would improve sales. HOWEVER, for many woman, shopping is a SOCIAL experience, undertaken with friends, daughters, or family members. How about a kiosk that uses ONE display for the female shopper, and provides a “linked display” for the other people? Heck, you could EVEN have a Female/Male kiosk, so the FEMALE could use the actual “app” to search for various beauty topics, while the SECOND SCREEN uses anthropological videos to explain to THE MALE why women do this, and explain the process of how a woman “gets beautiful” – might even improve the male’s understanding of the female… I KNOW INTEL has a LOT of this information available, so you could do this quickly! GOOD LUCK!

    • Eric Mantion says:

      Thanks for the comment Gerry – 1 interesting thing that you may not have heard, we do actually have the technology with a relatively simple camera & software we have (call the Intel AIM Suite) can actually detect the gender of the user & adjust itself to the need of men or women as the case may be. I do totally agree that many women look at shopping as a social experience, so I think you’ve got some good points about setting up a camera (with a physical sliding shutter for safety) so that ladies can quickly log into Facebook/whatever super quickly upload pictures of outfits at different angles without having to do that silly hold the phone with an extend hand while trying to pose thing that we see them do so often. As to whether we could explain women to men, um, yeah, no comment your honor, I plead the 5th °_° – but thanks for the thoughts

  3. Lynn M. says:

    1) There are so many ways in which technology could improve peoples’ lives, but when I think carefully about the retail issue, one of the problems with shopping online or at a kiosk for beauty products is that many people enjoy the experience of smelling the various perfumes,wearing them for a few minutes, and then deciding upon one that works best (the same experience applies to makeup, as evidenced by the availability of Q-Tips, makeup remover, etc., at end-cap displays in stores like Sephora, Ulta, etc.). Leveraging a reciprocal effect, which is created by the ability to offer make-overs on-the-spot, stores are able to sell more product. This would be hard to accomplish using a kiosk, but a similar effect could be created through allowing a user to upload a photo (or have said kiosk take photo), and then “trying on” various options in different lighting conditions and in different backgrounds. The customer could then print out a photo and a list of the items used to create said photo to the counter to purchase the items. Another great addition would be to allow for the creation of a profile, the ordering of samples (thus allowing for a try-before-you-buy effect). Perhaps people could pay a modest fee each month in exchange for a certain number of samples to try out.

    2) I remember a presentation that was delivered by a nice, English economics or marketing professor, who was working at one of the Ivy League schools at the time. He had done some research, along with several graduate students, that indicated in third world countries and the villages contained therein, people would get together to purchase large-ticket items, such as big-screen TVs, music systems, computers, etc.

    Having spoken with several people (no where near enough to constitute a valid sample size >30 for example), about this phenomenon, a trend emerged. All those informally asked expressed an interest in being able to contribute toward the purchase of a large-ticket item, e.g., furniture for a newly-wed, or about-to-be newly wed, close friend or relative. The geographic distance separating them from family members and friends was seen as a drawback to being able to achieve this goal, as was the lack of a means to facilitate said purchase.

    Best Buy’s Pitch-in card leverages this phenomenon and is a step in the right direction. However, it does not let a potential contributor see who else has contributed and how much. For privacy reasons, perhaps the identities of those contributing do not wish their details to be revealed to others; however, putting that information on there would allow others to see, through the principle of persuasion – social proof, who has contributed what amount, when, and toward which items on the wish list (instead of a general fund, so-to-speak). Of course, this could backfire if it seems like people are contributing low amounts or are not contributing at all…perhaps then the person creating the wish list could designate a minimum dollar amount below which contributions are not listed. Some of the research on how people contribute to non-profits could be leveraged to make lists of suggested dollar amounts, using serial positioning effects, etc. Similar to the suggestion made about kiosks in departments stores that facilitate cosmetics sales (see previous entry), kiosks could be used, as they are in many stores right now, to facilitate list browsing and contributions… this could also be done at the point-of-sale kiosks, but many systems time the amount of time it takes to complete a sale, so doing this at this point in a store could adversely affect a customer service rep’s stats, especially if the dollar contribution is not enough to purchase a whole item and hence record a sale under that customer service rep’s belt.

    Perhaps the creation of a Web page that allows consumers to see peoples’ lists for multiple retailers is the way to go. Recipients could post pictures of how they’ve used the items purchased, so contributors can be satisfied that the purchase was put to good use. These pictures or videos would also allow others to see the service is being actively used and through the principle of social proof make them more likely (especially if they perceive the images to be those of similar others) to use the service themselves or contribute to a friend’s list or toward specific items on a list.

    Besides the obvious benefits of increased sales, there is a positive impact on federal (or national in other countries) treasuries, increased profits obtained from the accrual of interest on purchases before said purchases are delivered and those costs of delivery are incurred.

    ) Other ideas include the 3D body scanning concept that I first observed at the Levi’s Store in San Francisco, just off Union Square. This technology has been used at research facilities to obtain more accurate information about how peoples’ body sizes are changing in-general. This helps retailers figure out how to “size” their clothing and it dictates the average dimensions of clothing sizes going forward. What if, due to cheaper and faster processors and the advent of “cloud” computing people could go into a room in a mall and, on a subscription basis (an annual, quarterly, or monthly payment) obtain an accurate 3D scan of their body, which they then could access and submit to clothing manufacturers and stores around the mall to find out what items of clothing are suitable for their body at that particular moment in time. This information could be used to purchase “custom” clothing, made to their exact specifications by the manufacturers in question. It would also allow for more accurate information on a census-type basis about the trends in body sizes. This would be useful for several demographics…for example…the aforementioned manufacturers, health agencies, doctors. In fact, a person could link their account to their primary care providers’ system and comparisons of images over time, along with a weight reading, could be used to allow said primary care provider to determine if, for example, a diet or exercise program was a successful addition to a patient’s regimen. Alerts could be posted if BMI increases, for example. Anyway, the bottom line is increased exposure to (and the creation of yet more liking –another principle of influence – due to the ability to leverage Intel-based products to obtain clothing that fits perfectly …don’t know about anyone else reading this, but finding denims that fit first time around is nearly impossible) Intel Embedded processors, Intel-based computers in the form of laptops, ultra-books, netbooks, and other, mobile form factors.

  4. Ravi Manoj says:

    My biggest pains in shopping and how I wish it should have been:-

    1. When things (regular use grocery, kids’ food, school supplies, etc) get depleted at home an automatic note should be made and a weekly list generated and sent automatically to my store of choice who can send me the items. I cannot forget them then)

    2. When in a mart, I can search among the deals, brands, offers using a kiioskk to decide what I want and then they get billed automatcallygiving me more time to browse.

    3. For expensive items, a video demo of the item (eg. expensive toys which are not on demo)

    4. Able to get feedback on item trial from someone (family/spouse/etc)

    5. A running current bill amount meter on my trolley.

    6. Try on hairstyles, dresses, cosmetics etc in combination. (eg how i would look in this hair color with the dress i want to buy, not my current hair color)

    7. Location based alerts on temp jobs, deals events, news, etc. (through twitter etc also)

    Lotsa more but this is top of mind to start…..

    Hope u guys can help.

    Bangalore, India

    • Eric Mantion says:

      Thanks Ravi – I like a lot of those, but my favorite is the “current bill” meter on the cart, so you are not shocked when you get to the checkout – I would love that!