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Microsoft to apply its AI technologies to retail checkout: Report

Microsoft may be looking to get more involved in the checkout-free retail space, a market where Amazon has been making its mark as of late.

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Microsoft is stepping up its work to apply artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to the retail/point-of-sale space, according to a new report.

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Reuters reported on June 14 that Microsoft has a group within its AI team that's working to apply computer vision and some of its "intelligent edge" work to possibly compete with Amazon in the checkout-free retail space.

Amazon Go is a brick-and-mortar concept store that replaces cashiers and checkout lines with computer vision and artificial intelligence

Microsoft has a number of Internet of Things (IoT) and AI services which potentially could be applied to the retail space. Microsoft has been increasing its focus both on IoT endpoints (sensors, embedded devices, cameras, etc.) and the cognitive services -- such as Azure image-processing/vision, face recognition, speech and search -- that can connect to these endpoints,

The company also has retail/point-of-sale solutions that it markets through its Dynamics 365 for Retail software and service offerings.

And at its Build 2018 conference earlier this year, Microsoft introduced a new package of sensors called "Project Kinect," which will provide developers a way to embed a camera and related sensors into robots, drones and industrial equipment and automatically get hand tracking and high-fidelity spatial mapping. (The camera in Project Kinect is believed to be the same camera which will be in the next HoloLens.) The tag line for Project Kinect is "bringing AI to the edge." The package of sensors will be available in 2019, like the next HoloLens.

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Microsoft has worked with partners to target the retail industry, rather than compete with them head-to-head the way that Amazon is doing.

I've asked Microsoft for comment on the Reuters report. No word back so far.

Update: A Microsoft spokesperson said the company does not comment on rumors and speculation.