This Concept Design Could Be The Supermarket Of The Future
The retail space was designed by an MIT professor to be the first fully AR-powered store
When you pick up a vegetable at your local supermarket, there’s not much you can judge it by beyond its ripeness. From its origins on a particular vine to the chemical treatments it received while cultivating, much of the produce’s lifespan from farm to table is hidden to the consumer. In an endeavor to make purchasing items at the grocery store a more transparent process, MIT professor Carlo Ratti Associati, alongside the university’s Senseable City Lab, have reimagined what grocery shopping might look like in the not-too-distant future through a design appropriately dubbed the ‘Supermarket of the Future‘. Having been picked up by Italian consumers’ cooperative Coop – which operates the largest supermarket chain in Italy – the first-of-its-kind grocery store opened up in Milan last month, with plans to expand beyond Italy in the prospective future.
When you step into the Supermarket of the Future, the first thing you’ll notice is that the food isn’t organized like your typical grocery store. Instead, foods made with the same ingredients are paired together. Think of it more like a compartmentalized layout of flavors. Grapes can be found next to the wines, while fresh tomatoes and ketchup are shelved in a separate aisle.
Above the produce, long reflective screens can perceive what item a customer picked up via embedded motion detectors and Microsoft Kinect sensors. When pondering whether to go organic with your asian pears, the overhead mirrored display will help you come to a decision by displaying what pesticides or fertilizers were used in production, alongside nutrition facts, price, potential allergens, and details of the item’s journey to market. Elsewhere in the store, a 65-foot-long wall with 54 monitors baked-in highlights the daily top-selling products and offers cooking suggestions for those looking to get more creative in the kitchen.
Not only does Ratti believe data can help shoppers make more informed decisions around their eating habits, he also supposes that the surrounding visualizations helping to quantify many of the shoppers’ selections will encourage them to linger in the store a little while longer. To further this cause, items are displayed on shorter shelves about the shoulder height of the average consumer —an idea he hopes will encourage strangers to converse from across parallel aisles. In the grander scheme of things, the store exemplifies an emerging trend surrounding many of the brick and mortar retailers in today’s economy, which is to move away from merely selling items on a shelf, and towards promoting experiences that build brand-to-customer relationships in the hopes of repeat purchases.
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Bethany is the Co-Founder of Tech Will Save Us, which teaches multiple skills related to technology and design and provides DIY kits allowing makers to build their own devices with no soldering required. Her work regularly extends into design, art direction, and helping brands and businesses imagine a more positive and collaborative future with technology. She is currently based in London, overseeing all aspects of Technology Will Save Us with a focus on communications, partnerships and brand experience.