Following on from its success introducing traveling bicycle cafes to the world, the innovative Swedish company Wheelys has now produced a concept convenience store named Moby, that can travel around to various locations within a city. Initially designed to be piloted by a driver or via remote control, the ultimate goal is to have individual Moby stores operating autonomously, traveling from place to place as required.
Similar in design to its Wheely247 concept, Moby is accessed by a customer via the Wheely app on their smartphone which then scans a barcode of the items purchased and automatically debits their credit card. Unlike the static stores, however, Moby stores will be equipped with up to four drones on their roof, designed to deliver parcels to customers, and will be able to move from place to place along designated routes throughout an area.
Said by the makers to incorporate both AI and cloud technologies, the Moby retail units will automatically monitor stock levels and battery charge, and return to base for restocking and recharging as required. The units are also designed to share stock between Moby units; if one is low on an item, another unit with adequate stock can be hailed by the first to arrange a rendezvous and exchange of goods.
With one side of each Moby almost completely covered with a 400-inch television screen, Moby units will also act as mobile billboards. Inside, the entire store is controlled by AI – a holographic shop assistant, imaginatively named "Hol," is provided to help with purchases or with instructions on how to use the service.
Along with a parcel delivery point, a proposed pharmacy, and a med kit and defibrillator for personal emergencies (which, apparently, Hol can also provide instruction for), the interior of the Moby aims to be a "One stop shop" for everyone's needs.
Not quite the same as the independent shops that once adorned the roadsides of most cities and towns, Moby units are, however, intended to be disruptive to the idea of gigantic, centralized shopping centers, and reintroduce a more personalized shopping experience.
"Our dream is an entire fleet of self-driving staffless stores, killing the malls, and reviving the countryside and our inner cities," said Wheely's CTO, Paul Cromwell.
Launched today in Shanghai as part of beta testing, a Moby unit will begin trialing many of the aspects it promises with full retail deployment aimed for sometime in 2018.
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