TIME Retail

6 Futuristic Retail Displays That Will Change Your Idea of ‘E-Commerce’

These digital displays merge online and offline shopping experiences

The death of the physical store has been greatly exaggerated. In fact, despite the growth of online-only giants, retailers with a brick-and-mortar presence still control between 94% and 97% of the market, according to Harvard Business Review. Half of the e-commerce pie is still squarely on their plates, and many are finding new ways to blend on and offline shopping, deploying technologies that mix and match experiences from both worlds. Below are six innovative displays that hint at how they might start slicing up the other half.

  • Bloomingdale’s Clothing To-Go WIndow

    Bloomingdale's Ralph Lauren
    Matthew Carasella—Bloomingdale's Processed with VSCOcam with e5 preset

    Bloomingdale’s Manhattan flagship store sought to convert passersby into paying customers this Father’s Day with six interactive window displays of Ralph Lauren clothing. Shoppers on-the-go could tap color swatches on a touchscreen facing the sidewalk. That same colored shirt, tie or pants would materialize behind the window. If they liked what they saw, they could text “POLO” for a link to a checkout page.

    “We wanted to create an interactive experience that would literally make you stop in your tracks with something theatrical and mesmerizing,” said David Lauren, Ralph Lauren’s Executive Vice President of global advertising, marketing and corporate communications.

    The experience also aimed to avoid slowing shoppers down — they could opt to have the clothing hand-delivered to the sidewalk, completing the entire impulse buy without ever setting foot in the store.

  • Rebecca Minkoff’s Interactive Dressing Room

    Rebecca Minkoff eBay Enterprise
    eBay

    The mirror in the fitting room of Rebecca Minkoff’s SoHo store doubles as a personal shopping assistant, inviting shoppers to reflect (in every sense of the word) on which designer handbag suits their taste. A touchscreen display suggests alternative designs and colors. Shoppers can flip through their options, make a purchase or even adjust the mood lighting.

    “You can come in here and be completely anonymous, or you can get VIP treatment,” Minkoff told TIME in an in-depth profile of the futuristic touchscreens. The mirrors are powered by inventory management software from eBay. Users can see precisely what the store has in stock, rather than ask an assistant to go rifling through inventory “in back.”

  • Samsung’s Virtual Fitting Room

    SAMSUNG CSC
    Samsung SAMSUNG CSC

    Korean electronics giant Samsung unveiled a 55-inch LED display earlier this month that can drape a virtual necklace over the user’s reflection, among other interactive tricks.

    Retailers can then situate a “virtual fitting room” anywhere within a shopping center and lure customers into “trying on” jewelry and clothing without lifting a finger — well, maybe one finger to tap an item of interest. Three-dimensional cameras do the rest, mapping a floating image to the contours of shoppers’ bodies. Depth perception software developed by Intel helps secure the virtual item in place, “in order to deliver highly differentiated, exquisitely personalized customer experiences,” said Jose Avalos, worldwide visual retail director for Intel Corporation’s Internet of Things group.

    Retail is just the staging ground for the technology. Samsung envisions its smart mirror as a potential replacement to the typical silvered-glass mirror at home, which got its last technological overhaul circa 1835.

  • EBay’s Uncanny Personal Assistants

    eBay

    EBay has created an app called the Retail Associate Platform, which tracks a customer’s online shopping habits and arms retailers with an arsenal of personal information as soon as that customer walks through the door. As a result, sales assistants can have an uncannily personal conversation with shoppers, knowing, for instance, that they might be interested in a pink satchel that would perfectly match those new pink suede shoes.

    “If a customer walks in and doesn’t buy, the retailer has no idea they even exist,” said David Geisinger, head of retail business strategy at eBay Enterprise. “With this new technology, retailers will be able to gather more detail that can help them understand the customer and compete in a crowded commerce landscape.”

  • Microsoft’s Immersive Screens

    Microsoft

    Microsoft has a natural edge when it comes to deploying high tech displays in its retail stores, but it set a particularly high bar with a strip of wall-mounted LCD displays that wrap around the space, end-to-end, and can display a runner zipping from screen to screen in a continuous loop around the store.

    The display requires a specialized server that synchronizes the images as they play across the screens so the handoff appears seamless. The result is an eye-catching flow of information that’s as unmissable as a news ticker in Times Square.

    “Not only does the digital wall display beautiful images and provide an inviting and immersive experience, it is used to communicate ideas about how technology can be used to accomplish tasks, announce new trainings and entertain customers and includes localized information such as weather and events” Florin Gale, creative director of Microsoft stores, told TIME. “We even invite customers to play Xbox One on video walls in store, which are surrounded in directional sound that immerses the players in the gaming experience.”

  • Angry Birds Shopping Experience

    Dallis Willard—Orange Photography/Westfield

    Westfield Corporation unveiled a real-world version of the smartphone game Angry Birds at its San Francisco shopping center last month, proving that as much as retailers long to go digital, companies locked in the digital world may also want a room of their own.

    Game maker Rovio installed a gaming booth where shoppers could strap on Samsung Gear VR goggles and start slinging birds in three-dimensions. The booth was only an experimental display, one of many displays that Westfield Corporation set up for a showcase of innovative retail space uses. But it is perhaps the surest sign yet that the line between online and offline shopping could be relegated to a thing of the past.

TIME Innovation

NASA Is Sending Microsoft’s Most Incredible New Tech Into Space

HoloLens is now literally out of this world

NASA will launch two Microsoft HoloLens augmented reality headsets into space, the agency revealed on Thursday. They’re headed to the final frontier in order to bolster communications between astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and technicians back on earth.

The devices are slated to launch on a June 28 SpaceX resupply mission to the ISS.

NASA is touting the HoloLens’ interactive 3D interface as an effective way to replace verbal instructions with holographic illustrations that can overlay directly onto an astronaut’s surroundings.

“HoloLens and other virtual and mixed reality devices are cutting edge technologies that could help drive future exploration and provide new capabilities to the men and women conducting critical science on the International Space Station,” said ISS Program Director Sam Scimemi in a statement.

NASA released footage of Microsoft’s HoloLens team, including lead designer Alex Kipman, giving the HoloLens a spin (literally) aboard NASA’s Weightless Wonder C9 jet. The space agency estimates that after an extended round of testing, astronauts will be able to use the HoloLens by the end of the year.

The partnership between NASA and Microsoft’s HoloLens team, dubbed Project Sidekick, will be extended to a second test under the water on July 21, when NASA astronauts and engineers will bring the HoloLens down to the world’s only undersea research station, Aquarius. The two week trial is meant to simulate an extended mission into deep space.

“Sidekick is a prime example of an application for which we envisioned HoloLens being used – unlocking new potential for astronauts and giving us all a new perspective on what is possible with holographic computing,” said HoloLens designer Kipman in a statement.

TIME apps

Android Users, Rejoice: Microsoft Office Is Finally Here

Office for Android
Microsoft Office for Android

Word, Excel and PowerPoint are all free to download

Microsoft removed the “preview” label from its Office apps for Android smartphones on Wednesday, declaring the latest release of its productivity suite officially ready for prime time.

The announcement comes five weeks after Microsoft released the apps in preview mode to Android users, in a sort of public beta test that spanned 83 countries and 1,900 different Android phone models.

“We heard from thousands of these users,” Microsoft corporate vice president Kirk Koenigsbauer wrote in a public statement, “and over the last few weeks we were able to incorporate a lot of their feedback into the apps we’re launching today.”

The current release won’t work across every last Android device, particularly older models with tight memory constraints. But the vast majority of Android users can now download mobile versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint for free from the Google Play store.

TIME Innovation

Here’s How IBM Is Helping Towns Predict Disasters

Widespread Damage And Casualties After Tornadoes Rip Through South
Joe Raedle—Getty Images An ominous looking cloud hangs above the remains of a home that was destroyed by a tornado on April 29, 2014 in Tupelo, Mississippi.

IBM's new prediction tool marries live weather forecasts with a hyperlocal map, painting in yellow and red the damages to come

Every city has what emergency response crews call its “critical assets.” They’re roads, power stations, water pumps and pipes — the collective infrastructure that has the power to keep a city humming or bring life to a grinding halt. The question for city officials is when and if, exactly, these critical assets might fail. In severe weather, they typically find out the hard way.

Just this week, severe thunderstorms and twisters forced more than 15 fire departments and rescue teams to fan out across central Illinois. With crews already stretched thin, forecasters are predicting another round of severe weather to pummel the region. Help might arrive sooner if emergency crews had a map of which roads would become treacherous, which power stations would fail and which water mains would burst before the storm rolled into town.

That, in a nutshell, is the pitch for a new predictive tool IBM has unveiled in partnership with The Weather Company, parent company of The Weather Channel. Dubbed the “Intelligent Operations Center for Emergency Management,” the new platform marries live weather forecasts with a hyperlocal map of a city’s infrastructure, painting in yellow and red the predicted damage to come. With natural and man-made catastrophes taking 7,700 lives and upwards of $110 billion in damages in 2014, according to estimates by insurer Swiss Re, the market potential for a predictive tool is promising, to say the least.

The new software comes amid a surge of investment in big data solutions for public safety. Startup Mark43 is digitizing police records in an attempt to map out criminal networks. Motorola is embedding sensors into equipment used by police and fire crews to tap into a live feed of data from first responders. But IBM’s solution marks perhaps the most ambitious attempt to tease out the underlying order of chaotic events.

“I’m watching how those assets are affected to figure out, ‘Where do you begin?'” says Stephen Russo, director of emergency management solutions at IBM. “How do you get the biggest bang for your efforts?'”

Russo and his team used historic data from natural catastrophes to ascertain the breakpoint of certain assets — like when a power line might snap under high winds. The risk of failure is often as capricious as the wind itself. “It’s not a linear relationship,” says Russo. Power outages rise exponentially as wind speeds climbs from 20 mph to 40 mph, for instance. “When it goes from 40 to 50 mph, the amount of outages is much greater,” says Russo. And that’s the easy part of IBM’s catastrophic calculus.

Harder still is predicting which critical buildings — hospitals, schools and shelters — are most likely to suffer an outage. Throw in a few more assets, and no human statistician could ever hope to calculate the odds. IBM is betting machine learning algorithms can weigh the probabilities of failure in an instant and spit out ever-changing snapshots of disaster zones.

“Everybody sees the same picture of what’s going on,” says Mark Gildersleeve, president of The Weather Company’s professional division. “You’ve quantified the impact. Objectively, what are the areas most under stress?”

IBM envisions the map as a canvas for communication between emergency workers in command centers and various outposts. Top officials will have a bird’s eye view of relief efforts, while field workers can populate the map with reports from the ground. In its most ambitious form, the map could scale out to actors in the private sector. “The big ox carriers during a disaster, the Walmart’s and Costco’s, could position their resources more accurately and take more of the burden off of the public sector, so that they are not having to stock a warehouse full of water and generators.” Insurers might also use the maps to send pinpointed alerts to policyholders, warning them to cover their cars, for instance, before a hail storm bursts overhead.

But first, IBM will have to get all of those myriad actors on board its system. Fortunately for its sales team, the platform doubles as an ordinary emergency response system, recording routine traffic accidents as well as nature’s most brutal events. But the true test of the system will come at those unpredictable moments when the skies open up and the earth shakes beneath users’ feet. With severe thunderstorms threatening 50 million Americans this week, the solution can’t come soon enough.

TIME Social Networking

Facebook Can Recognize You Even If You Cover Your Face

Internet Market Considers MIcrosoft Bid for Yahoo
Chris Jackson—Getty Images Facebook logo is reflected in the eye of a girl on February 3, 2008 in London, England.

"People have characteristic aspects, even if you look at them from the back"

Facebook has unveiled a cutting-edge computer vision algorithm that can identify individuals in pictures even if some of those individuals are facing away from the camera, New Scientist reports.

Computer vision algorithms currently suggest tags for photos uploaded to the social network, but the latest exhibition of Facebook’s technology at the Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition conference in Boston managed to identify people in 40,000 public Flickr photos with 83% accuracy. Even more uncanny, the algorithm was able to seize on unique identifying traits, such as hairstyles and recurring outfits.

“People have characteristic aspects, even if you look at them from the back,” Facebook’s head of artificial intelligence told New Scientist. “For example, you can recognize Mark Zuckerberg very easily because he always wears a gray T-shirt.”

It isn’t yet clear if the new algorithm will be incorporated into any of Facebook’s products.

Read more at New Scientist.

TIME Innovation

The Military Is Building This Crazy Star Wars-Style Hoverbike

"There are a lot of advantages of the Hoverbike over a regular helicopter"

The U.S. Defense Department has taken the plunge on hoverbikes, striking a deal with a U.K.-based engineering firm to develop a functioning prototype vehicle that can conduct reconnaissance missions, deliver supplies or even ferry human passengers.

U.K.-based engineering firm Malloy Aeronautics grabbed the Defense Department’s attention with a functioning, small-scale model hoverbike. At three times the size, engineers say the bike could present a safer, cheaper and more portable alternative to the typical helicopter.

“Lots of them can be moved around and deployed in the places that you need them very easily and very quickly,” Malloy Marketing Sales Director Grant Stapleton told Reuters.

Malloy Aeronautics will set up a joint office with U.S.-based defense firm SURVICE Engineering Co. in Maryland, near the U.S. Army Research Laboratory. Still, there’s no guarantee the hoverbike could ever see active duty: a press release stresses the DoD deal is for research and development only at this point.

 

 

TIME Crime

Dylann Roof’s Family Breaks Silence on Shooting

"Words cannot express our shock, grief and disbelief as to what happened that night"

The family of South Carolina shooter Dylann Roof expressed shock and grief in their first public announcement since Roof allegedly drew a gun on a bible study group, killing 9 people.

The statement supplied to the press on Friday reads:

“The Roof Family would like to extend their deepest sympathies and condolences to families of the victims in Wednesday night’s shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. Words cannot express our shock, grief, and disbelief as to what happened that night. We are devastated and saddened by what occurred. We offer our prayers sympathy for all of those impacted by these events.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those killed this week. We have all been touched by the moving words from the victims’ families offering God’s forgiveness and love in the face of such horrible suffering.

Our hope and prayer is for peace and healing for the families of the victims, the Charleston community, and those touched by these events throughout the state of South Carolina and our nation.

As you can imagine, words are hard to find and we would ask that the media respect our family’s privacy at this time.”

The 21-year-old, who faces nine charges of murder, appeared in court on Friday for a bond hearing in which his bail was set at $1 million. His next court appearances are scheduled for October 23 and February 5.

 

TIME Crime

Escaped New York Convicts Added to 15 Most Wanted Fugitives List

Reward set at $25,000 per convict for information leading to their arrests

The U.S. Marshals Service added escaped convicts David Sweat and Richard Matt to its list of 15 most wanted fugitives this week, offering a $50,000 reward to anyone who has information that might lead to their arrest.

Sweat and Matt escaped from from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y., triggering a sweeping manhunt across the area.

“There is no question David Sweat and Richard Matt fall into this category,” U.S. Marshals Service Director Stacia Hylton said in a public statement. “While their brazen prison escape has left the public on edge, it has only ignited our sheer determination to bring them back to justice.”

Sweat was sentenced to life in prison for the 2002 killing of a sheriff’s deputy, while Matt was serving a 25-year term for lethally beating and dismembering a man in 1997.

TIME Crime

Church Shooter Made Racial Comment Before Fleeing, Document Says

Dylann Roof "uttered a racially inflammatory statement"

After Dylann Roof shot nine people dead at a Charleston, S.C. church, he stood over a witness who had survived the massacre and used a racial slur, according to newly released documents.

Roof, 21, walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church at 8:06 p.m. on Wednesday, where he was welcomed by church members into a Bible study circle, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by TIME. After about an hour of studying, Roof drew a .45 caliber pistol from his fanny pack and attacked the parishioners, firing “multiple shots” at at least one of the victims, the affidavit says. Roof then stood over a surviving witness and “uttered a racially inflammatory statement,” according to the affidavit. The church’s surveillance camera captured footage of the fleeing gunman, who was later identified as Roof by his father and uncle.

Roof has been charged with nine counts of murder and one count of possession of a deadly weapon. Grieving family members confronted Roof for the first time during an emotional bail hearing on Friday. Authorities said they were investigating the shooting as a hate crime.

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