Safeway's virtual shop assistant

Shopping for spuds will never be the same again

Supermarket chain Safeway is piloting an interactive version of its self-scanning system, creating a virtual shop assistant for each customer.

The supermarket says the handheld Portable Shopping System -- developed by Symbol Technologies -- will let the company "interact directly with customers" in real time as they shop. "The new system will let us inform customers of special promotions as they move to different areas around the store, or make people aware of new product lines if they are buying similar items," said a spokeswoman.

Safeway currently runs its personal handheld scanning service in 150 of its stores.

Other applications for the interactive system include menu suggestions and alternatives to customers' usual choices.

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