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intu debuts robotic retail assistants and queue-jumping tech


Robotic retail assistants and queue-jumping technology have been unveiled at intu shopping centres to test the reactions of shoppers and retailers.

Bo, Europe’s first ever shopping centre robot, is currently interacting with shoppers at intu Milton Keynes, directing them to different parts of the centre and collecting feedback about their shopping experience. It will also tell them about special offers they can take up at Starbucks and Pret A Manger to test the potential of the technology to drive shoppers to stores and other locations.
 
Robot specialist BotsAndUs, the brains behind the one-meter-high ‘shop-bot’, is one of seven start-up businesses collaborating with intu to test new retail technology at its shopping centres across the UK and online at intu.co.uk. The robots have been used in the hospitality sector before but this is the first time the company has run a shopping centre trial. 
 
intu is also working with WoraPay to trial queue-jumping technology at intu Trafford Centre in Greater Manchester in partnership with several of the shopping centre’s cafés  and coffee shops including Leon and Shake Lab. It allows customers to order and pay for food and drink on their phone as they shop and then collect them when they are ready, bypassing any queues. 
 
The innovations are being trialled as part of intu Accelerate, a ten-week start-up incubator being run by intu to develop new technologies for UK retail.
 
David Fischel, intu chief executive, says: “Retail has always been an inventive industry and the UK has remained at the forefront of this. We’ve launched intu Accelerate to drive forward innovative technology that will entertain and engage shoppers and help businesses to flourish. It’s giving talented new businesses like BotsandUs and WoraPay the opportunity to trial their ideas within live environments and test their potential to shape the future of retail.”
 
Andrei Danescu, BotsAndUs CEO, says: “Robots in retail are still very much a novelty, especially when supporting shoppers with practical tasks such as helping them to find what they are looking for or to take advantage of the latest promotions. We are extremely excited to work with intu and bring Bo to a British shopping centre in a European premiere.”
 
Richard Jackson, UK Founder of WoraPay, says: “Technology is changing the way people shop. There is no longer a need to wait in a queue to order, pay for or collect items like drinks and takeaway food. We expect to see some great results for our service within intu Trafford Centre over the coming months for both the retailers and intu.”
 
Technology provider Infraspeak, which uses reactive sensors, user-friendly apps and powerful software to make building management easier, is also running a live trial at intu Trafford Centre as part of intu Accelerate.
 
The other companies taking part are: GoInStore, which uses physical retail spaces to drive up web traffic and orders by creating live in-store video experiences for online customers; Percent, an app that helps shoppers raise money for charity as a small portion of their debit or credit card spend is automatically donated by retailers to their chosen charity; Soza Health, which offers customers health assessments and tailored recommendations to optimise their health; and Toky Woky, a community live-chat facility where customers browsing an online shop can receive real time advice from fellow shoppers.

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