Recently, we’ve been hearing a lot about self-driving cars, personal assistant bots who schedule your appointments and many things enabled by Artificial Intelligence. Is it time for AI-based shopping assistants? To answer that, we need to address what needs to happen to enable AI-based shopping assistants.
First, this assistant needs a “map” of products, like self-driving cars need a map of all the roads. Second, the assistant needs a way to capture and store your personal preferences. The shopper could delegate this to other applications like Facebook or Google that have an extensive profile of them, or they could choose to define explicit rules for preferences. You could start with a simple rule-based system and then graduate to an inferred model based on growing purchase history. Finally, you’d need a payment authorization module that requires your “go ahead” for purchases. I’d argue that there are multiple ways that personal preferences and payment authorizations can be done.
The missing piece for now is the “map” of products. There needs to be a relatively comprehensive product catalog, that is current, broad and accessible. It shouldn’t be limited to one or a few retailers. Who can do this? Possibly, one of the search engines could. Amazon could, of course, but it would have to go beyond its current footprint and be more inclusive if it were to be more than an Amazon shopping assistant. I think that it’s more likely that an independent product catalog will have more success in the initial stages.