A bite-size digital business magazine from DraytonPartners
Intelligent Insights

“DOES MY BUM LOOK BIG IN THIS, HAL 9000?”

Can super intelligent retail AI answer the world’s most dangerous question?

2030 Vision:

Can super intelligent retail AI answer the world’s most dangerous question?

“I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do,” so says HAL 9000, the sentient supercomputer in Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001, A Space Odyssey.

And that’s all rather marvellous, HAL, but what the UK fashion industry really wants to know is: how can hyper-intelligent AI, like you, help it sell more chinos?

According to Raconteur, “more than 75% of fashion retailers” have invested in AI technology since 2021. So, the UK industry is more than ready for the generative revolution. If, perhaps, still not sure where that revolution will take it.

One direction of travel, suggests Raconteur, is for fashion retailers to analyse real-world customers with the same level of scrutiny they do those in the virtual environment. To “watch customers in physical stores…looking at their facial expressions when something is tried on.”

Something HAL could undoubtedly do. In the movie, he manages to read the lips of the humans conspiring against him.

The retail potential for this kind of technology is huge. Raconteur again: “It may allow retailers to identify what customers are wearing, where they likely bought it and – even – what they paid for it.”

But is that something UK customers would actually feel comfortable with? Or will they revolt at the prospect of what could clearly be interrupted as virtual stalking?

The Japanese experience suggests an answer. Because – as so often in matters technical – they are ahead of this particular curve.

As The Register reports, “a Japanese supermarket has started analysing customers' in-store behaviour and feeding it to a generative AI to drive an avatar that makes real-time suggestions about stuff you might want to buy.”

The Aruk Mitajiri supermarket used video cameras to detect shoppers who “linger at displays, compare multiple products, bend down towards a shop display, pick up a product, or respond to in-store content.”

These observations are then used to tune the AI inside the "Avatar concierge" which then makes hyper-relevant sales suggestions.

So far, nobody seems to have complained at this level of scrutiny. But British consumers may well react differently.

“Does my bum look big in this?” Even AI-gods have to be careful answering that kind of loaded question. “I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do...” Good answer, HAL, good answer. You’re very definitely learning.