There’s something incredibly futuristic about walking into a store, grabbing items off the shelf, tapping a confirmation screen, and going along your merry way — no credit card, cash, or small talk with a cashier required. Amazon Go, internet retailer Amazon’s prototypical checkout-free retail experience, offers a taste of a future without lines, but the rollout is slow going. Currently, there’s only one location.
Enter Trigo Vision, a Tel Aviv, Israel-based computer vision startup made up of former Google, Amazon, and Apple employees that aims to bring checkout-less experiences to existing brick-and-mortar stores. It emerged from stealth today with $7 million in seed funding from Hetz Ventures and Vertex Ventures Israel, and it’s wasting no time expanding beyond a few undisclosed test locations.
“We’re enabling retailers worldwide to transform the retail environment for customers,” Trigo CEO Michael Gabay told VentureBeat in a phone interview. “We’re creating a platform for retail that automates as much as possible.”
Trigo, much like Amazon Go, relies on a system of cameras to track customers as they weave in and out of isles and toss items into their respective shopping carts. Its service is a package deal: In addition to Trigo’s machine learning-powered tracking software, clients get a network of high-resolution, ceiling-mounted RGB cameras.
Gabay characterizes it as a hybrid solution. Retailers pay a subscription fee for a “processing unit” that ingests data from the aforementioned cameras and sends it to Trigo’s cloud provider, which analyzes the data and uses it to improve the platform’s algorithms.
It’s scalable — Gabay said there’s virtually no limit to the number of objects and people the system can track — and it works in “medium to small” convenience stores up to 200 square meters in size, or about 1,800 square feet.
It’s also highly customizable. “We allow the retailers to [fine-tune] the solution,” Gabay explained. “They don’t have to change the layout or structure of the store … How they want to deploy the system is up to them. Our goal is not to be directly engaged with customers — retailers know their customers and their customers’ needs.”
Trigo’s customers have a couple of configuration options: They can instruct shoppers to add their payment information to a custom-designed app, à la Amazon Go, or employ kiosks with screens that show a running bill. Items can be added or deleted as needed, in the event that the system makes a mistake.
If a customer leaves the store and later discovers they were mistakenly charged for something, it’s up to the retailer to accept or deny the return. (That’s unlike Amazon Go, which offers no-questions-asked refunds on items that might have been inadvertently purchased.)
Trigo’s system doesn’t just keep track of purchase intent. Gabay said that it can prevent shoplifting and provide insights and opportunities for customer engagement, like highlighting a heavily trafficked sales isle or a palette of slow-moving produce.
That treasure trove of data doesn’t come free, exactly. Trigo’s system is compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), an EU law on data protection and privacy that gives users more control over their personal data. And it collects data anonymously — shoppers can’t be identified from any of the tracking data in Trigo’s local or cloud software.
“We’re making sure that we keep customers’ privacy,” Gabay said, “and that customer data is treated appropriately.”
Trigo isn’t the first to use a combination of cameras and computer vision to ease store owners’ burdens. AiFi, a Santa Clara-based startup that emerged from stealth in February, employs a proprietary mix of cameras, sensors, and AI to offer shoppers a checkout-free experience. And Japanese telecom company NTT East and startup Earth Eyes created AI Guardsman, a machine learning system that flags would-be shoplifters.
But Gabay is confident that Trigo will be among the first to launch in retail chains. “We’re already in talks with major grocers globally,” he said.