Stationary retail is not only suffering due to the COVID-19 pandemic but has been doing so for many years thanks to the competition with online retail. The Institute for Artificial Intelligence (IAI) at the University of Bremen is developing new solutions that are to put traditional stores back in the competition again – both in terms of financial aspects and service quality. The IAI director, Professor Michael Beetz, received the Science Prize 2021 for this research on March 17, 2021. The EHI Stiftung and GS1 Germany awarded the prize for pioneering work in the retail and consumer goods industry.
The IAI carries out research in the field of artificial intelligence and robotics. The research focus lies on the development of autonomous knowledge processing methods in robots. This means that the robots can acquire the expertise required for a particular task themselves.
Artificial Intelligence for Process Optimization
An important implementation scenario of this research lies in the area of retail. The logistics processes in a store or a chain of stores cause high costs that could be considerably reduced by intelligent, timesaving management of the goods transports to the stores – but also within the stores. Artificial intelligence can provide a valuable service here by contributing findings and undertaking process optimizations that humans can hardly recognize with such detail.
Furthermore, stationary retail is often at a disadvantage in comparison to sole online retailers, as it can only make a restricted number of products available on site. AI can be implemented in many diverse ways in order to elevate the service quality onto a very high level – for example by offering special consultation services to customers who are looking for products with certain specifications or by means of a quick and efficient ordering service.
Robots to Stack Shelves
The IAI is also working on making it possible for robots to help with logistical jobs in stores. Stacking shelves is one of the core tasks.
Professor Beetz calls the technology that forms the basis for all of this “semantic digital twin.” This means there are accurate digital 3D replicas of stores that make it possible for relevant information to be retrieved in real-time – for example, information concerning the store location and the available quantity of a product. Further knowledge bases that contain the specifications or sale numbers of the product, amongst other things, can be linked to this.
The IAI is developing this technology as part of the “The Digital Twin as a Knowledge Base for Stores” project, in order to make this innovation accessible for retail and the connected delivery chains. It was for this project that Michael Beetz received the Science Prize 2021 in the category “Best Professorial Chair Project.”
About Professor Michael Beetz
Professor Michael Beetz is a university lecturer of computer science at the University of Bremen and director of the Institute for Artificial Intelligence (IAI). In the field of artificial intelligence, he placed fourth in a ranking from the renowned Tsinghua University (China) in 2020. He is therefore one of the most influential AI researchers in the world. The IAI, which he leads, researchers AI-based controlling methods for robotic agents. Beetz is also spokesperson of the collaborative research center EASE (Everyday Activity Science and Engineering), which has been funded by the German Research Foundation since 2017, and is also joint coordinator of the university’s high-profile area “Minds, Media, Machines.” He is additionally one of the initiators of the Knowledge4retail project, which has the aim of developing an intelligent digital platform for retail.
Institute for Artificial Intelligence
University of Bremen
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