By Lawrence Lee

Lawrence Lee

”The future will be about people and computers collaborating as teams.” – Lawrence Lee, senior director of Strategy for PARC, a Xerox company

Imagine a near future when you’ll be greeted by a digital wall when you step into a store. It will display a custom view of products that are personalized to your past purchases and recommended by people who share your sensibilities. Touch any product, and get more information about it, including a demo video and customer reviews. Or you can request assistance from a store associate.

Add products to your virtual shopping cart, and a fulfillment process places the physical products in a bag waiting for you by the store exit.

This scenario may not be possible today, but at Xerox, we are working on new technologies that will enable these kinds of experiences in the future.

Our vision is that personalized, real world, real time optimization will be ubiquitous — a natively digital experience that digital natives have come to expect through their interactions with companies such as Amazon, Netflix, and Uber. These new types of brick-and-mortar stores will be “phygital” — all the features of an e-commerce site combined with the service and availability of a physical store.

Here’s a look at some of the work in Xerox’s labs that will enable retail’s phygital future.

Video Analytics

Cameras, image processing and automated analytics will help retailers understand customers’ in-store browsing behavior. These insights will help retailers optimize their layout and merchandising, and it will help them understand the right time to send associates to help their customers.

Retail Robot

A robot that scans store shelves, automates signage checks, out of stocks, and merchandising compliance – at lower cost and with fewer errors.

Human-Computer Teams

Systems that combine the respective strengths of people and computers. In fact, we are designing how the interaction between people and computers can make each better and more productive.

Virtual Assistants

Automated intelligent virtual assistants that have conversations with people. Over time, the virtual assistant builds a shared context and understanding with the customer. The result will be better service.


More than just understanding people by their behaviors and actions, we’re designing systems that understand your customers as individuals, including their personalities, so that you can tailor your communications styles.

Privacy-Preserving Analytics

Performing predictive analytics on encrypted data can deliver all the value of context-aware, personalized services without actually seeing your customer’s personal data. Only with these types of advanced security technologies will users allow service providers to access and mine their data. This research is particularly valuable in a world where we use a variety of sensors to understand customer behavior, ranging from cameras to wearables.

A Digital Native’s World

The future of retail is natively digital. Going beyond the omnichannel, the future is about the integration of the physical and digital worlds to deliver personalized, real world, real time optimization.

So is it inevitable that machines will replace people in the future? No. In fact we believe that even as computers get more capable to perform even complex tasks, the future will be about people and computers collaborating as teams.

We are excited to see glimpses of this future in our labs, and we look forward to bringing these new capabilities to our clients and partners in the near future.

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