Hackathon winners demonstrate what retail shopping might be like with the help of Amazon’s Alexa

The winner of TechCrunch’s Disrupt SF 2017 Hackathon gives us a glimpse into what shopping at physical stores will be like in a future where voice assistants break out of the home. Hundreds of engineers and designers competed to create the most interesting project they could in 24 hours. The winner, Alexa Shop Assist, imagines a future where devices like the Amazon Echo or Echo Dot are scattered throughout a store to help shoppers easily navigate the space and get answers to questions without needing to hunt down an employee.

The winning team created an Alexa skill that combines Amazon’s voice assistant with their own speaker recognition algorithm to help store shoppers. The demo involved a customer in a store asking Alexa “where can I find engine oil for my Prius,” to which Alexa responded with the aisle number. While a voice-powered store directory is impressive, the demo really shined when the shopper asked Alexa “which one should I get” while in the engine oil aisle.

The Alexa skill, using the team’s custom speaker recognition algorithm, identified the shopper as the person from earlier who asked about engine oil. Already knowing the shopper was looking for engine oil for a Prius, the application responded with the correct oil grade to buy.

Amazon is already testing convenience store without any cashiers, so it’s easy to see Alexa being used to assist customers in navigating those stores, in order to further reduce the necessary staff. Having easy access to a large pool of knowledge covering all of the products in a store would be quite beneficial to shoppers as well.

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4 comments
  1. AR says:

    really? how boring and unimaginative can you get

    why not use alexa through the dash wand instead?

    not sure of the hardware the dash wand has onboard but a new model could include a GPS or use another means to triangulate your position in the
    store so it could give you turn by turn voice directions to the product

    or say instead of having echo dots positioned all around the store just have like 8 wifi ap routers,maybe more ,that can triangulate the position of the wand in the store ,say alexa where is the cereal , the wand responds by giving you turn by turn voice directions , or have an app automatically that turns on the wifi hotspot on your phone and logs the wand into it and relays GPS data to the wand , or better yet why not just ditch the wand and the echos altogether and just have a damn phone app that can navigate you with turn by turn voice directions inside the store
    but the way things are going amazon will have killed all retail stores anyways except for whole foods

    or you could just set up the wand with the app to make wand automatically connect to the stores wifi network when you enter the store
    a wifi network that can triangulate the wands position in the store

    log into the

    • JoeB says:

      I believe this was created in 24 hours with existing technology. I’m sure what you proposed can be done with new tech and appropriate budget

  2. I thought all the B&Ms were going away…

    I ask for something much simpler every time Amazon surveys me about Alexa. I would simply like for Alexa to tell me where to get the best for each item I add to my shopping list.

    ME: Alexa, add eggs to my shopping list.
    ALEXA: I see that Aldis has eggs for $0.83 per dozen this week. I can ship one dozen eggs to you for the same price.

  3. Christopher Loughrey says:

    Will never enjoy shopping with Alexa and it will only benefit those buying the same food items. People like to browse and see what they are buying, that’s one of the pleasures of online shopping. I keep that feature switched off.

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