Toronto, Canada-based startup Twenty Billion Neurons (TwentyBN) has created a life-size digital avatar to help retail brands looking for ways to boost falling in-store sales in the face of growing competition from e-commerce.
The Millie avatar appears on a slightly-larger-than-life screen, seemingly making eye contact with customers and tracking their movements with her gaze; Millie is also able to tell where in the store a customer is looking and respond accordingly.
The system is equipped with speech recognition and natural language processing software, which allow Millie to understand and answer simple questions or have a basic conversation with a shopper.
The avatar also uses facial-recognition software to learn to recognize people it sees often by name.
Natalie Berg of U.K. consultancy NBK Retail observed that there is a fine line between cool and creepy, adding that “While this kind of tech is still novel, it is a way to get people into the store, but it might not be for everyone.”
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