Lenovo announces unmanned convenience store to test AI, facial recognition

Lenovo said it will use the store to trial and hone its tablets, facial recognition, artificial intelligence, and e-payment technologies in a live retail environment.

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(Image: Lenovo)

Lenovo has opened an unmanned convenience store in China, using it as a testbed for trialling facial-recognition, e-payment, Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and augmented reality (AR) technologies, with its tablets acting as the staffers of the store.

The Lenovo Lecoo Unmanned Store is located at the tech company's campus in Beijing, with VP of Research and Technology Daryl Cromer saying Lenovo can learn "everything" from the trial.

"Shopping at the store is quite simple. You walk up to the door, cameras recognise your face, you browse the aisles, pick out what you want as usual, then -- and here's the magic -- you just walk out, and your account is automatically settled via your mobile payment," Lenovo explained.

"We can now understand some of the technologies and challenges our customers face, allowing us to make better devices and tailored solutions. The store becomes a powerful pilot program for technologies that move beyond the Lenovo campus."

According to Lenovo, by using tablets at the store's entryway to match customers with their profiles, it can learn "how to implement and optimise facial recognition for all of Lenovo's devices and looked into specialised tablets with a camera better suited for facial recognition".

"When people think of a retail experience they think of a PC, keyboard, a barcode reader, and a cash drawer," Cromer said.

"Going forward. this will be defined by mobile payment, by empowering the user to their own selection, fast payout, etc. That would imply our tablets, PCs, and phones would evolve to better fit this ecosystem, and over time the options for each will become more optimised to fit these scenarios."

Lenovo is next looking to add online-to-offline delivery to the store, and an AI- and data-driven coffee machine that remembers each customer's order.

The company had a year ago emphasised the importance of AI to the enterprise, as it announced new hardware and software for machine-learning systems.

"Artificial intelligence is already having a profound impact on traditional business strategies and scientific research, and most senior leaders consider it a priority for the year ahead," Lenovo Data Center Group president Kirk Skaugen said at the time.

At the same time, Lenovo made a $1.2 billion investment in AI research and development, and opened three AI innovation centres in Beijing, China; Stuttgart, Germany; and Morrisville, North Carolina.

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Both IDC and Gartner last month awarded Lenovo the number one spot in PC shipments globally, listing the Chinese multinational as shipping around 16,000 desktops, notebooks, and workstations in Q3 of 2018.

According to IDC, Lenovo shipped 16,152 total devices during the three-month period, while Gartner reported the number as being 15,889.

Lenovo in June also launched a series of smart office products for meeting rooms, aiming to use a bundle of hardware and software to connect and pair devices, sense participants, and integrate with collaboration platforms including Skype for Business, Zoom, and BlueJeans.

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