July 7, 2017 -
BingoBox, a Chinese chain of artificial intelligence-powered, self-service convenience stores, has raised over 100 million yuan ($14.7 million) in its first round of funding, led by technology investment firm GGV Capital, according to a report by Sixth Tone.
Powered by AI and other innovative technologies, the self-service convenience stores aim to reduce costs on staff.
The retail stores are slowly expanding in big cities across China, drawing the attention of both customers and investors in the process.
BingBox partnered with French retail firm Auchan to launch trial operations in Zhongshan, Guangdong province in August 2016, before opening its first store in Shanghai in June.
“We are optimistic about opportunities in the retail industry, and especially about the BingoBox team,” said Eric Xu, a managing partner at GGV Capital. “As the technology gradually matures, we believe that businesses in the new retail industry, led by BingoBox, will have great potential.”
Located in the parking lot next to a supermarket in the northeastern part of Zhongshan, the BingoBox store allows consumers to scan a QR code to gain access to the store.
Once inside the 51.2-square-foot store, shoppers can select from a range of products including umbrellas and sushi lunchboxes.
When consumers are ready to check out, they can carry the items over to an automated checkout counter and pay using a digital wallet app on their smartphones.
As an anti-theft measure, all shoppers must pass a full-body scan before the doors will successfully open.
“We’ve created a deep-learning team to study item recognition technologies and algorithms,” Chen Zilin, BingoBox’s co-founder, said. “By optimizing the algorithms and holding numerous trainings, we’ve [got the scanner to] recognize more than 200 products.”
BingoBox plans to use the raised funds to open 5,000 stores this year across the country.
The self-service shopping industry is still in its early stages, however, there are already several new players seeking to gain traction.
Swedish retail startup Wheelys recently unveiled a prototype for its autonomous, self-driving mobile store, Moby Mart, that uses artificial intelligence and computer vision to navigate city streets.