China rolls out Unmanned Retail Stores

It took thousands of years for humankind to develop metal wings so we could fly like a bird which is so free in the sky, but it took humankind only few more years to fire all grocery helpers, bus drivers, taxicab drivers, truck drivers, pilots, restaurant helpers, some firemen, some nurses and doctors, some cooks, and whatnot.  Why and how?  Automation baby!  Here is a clue, check out the video right after the break to see new unmanned grocery stores that are going to be popping out all over the place in China.

These stores are still in testing phrase, but they’re ready as real grocery stores since real people are actually buying stuffs there.  These stores don’t need any helper, because everything is automated.  The key is your smartphone!  Customers can sign up with the store by scanning the QR code through their smartphone, and then they can proceed to shop within the store.  Once they see something they like, they can scan quickly scan the items at the scanner and pay through smartphone’s QR code scanning.  This bypasses the cashier process altogether.  This also bypasses the need to hire a grocery helper, security guard, and whatnot.

In the video I see some people are holding doors for others to come into the store.  I can imagine a scenario when a person who has not yet signed up with the store but got inside it and try to walk out the store with whatever items they want to steal.  One problem though, the store won’t open the door for a shoplifter, and thus security is sound.  If the person has already signed up with the store, it doesn’t matter if he or she has to be scanned from the door to get inside, because the cameras would scan all customers once they’re inside and when they’re trying to get out of the store.  Anyhow, I wonder will someone be able to hack the system and get away with stuffs like an uncaught shoplifter.

VR Shopping Experience With Macy

Single day in China becomes a biggest cash grab event in the world, and Alibaba is the founder of this event.  Alibaba and Macy together provide a virtual reality shopping experience for people in China who do not want to fly to USA but still want to buy products in Macy.  Check how this goes in the video right after the break.

China’s Supermarkets Look Very Similar To American Ones, But With More Live Animals And Less Cheese

Don’t you think China’s supermarkets look very similar to the American ones?  Just saying as a curiosity… because I don’t want this to sound like a political point of view.  For real though, do not watch the video right after the break if you take this piece politically or something in that manner, because even the owner/director of the video does not want this particular video to be about politics or geopolitics.  How do I know?  I had watched several videos by serpentza (YouTube nickname) before, on YouTube, and he had mentioned how he didn’t want his videos to be politicized.  You can check out China’s medium size supermarket (ren ren le) in the video right after the break.  Enjoy!!!

Is It Truly Necessary To Actually Own Digital Books?

English: A Picture of a eBook Español: Foto de...

English: A Picture of a eBook Español: Foto de eBook Беларуская: Фотаздымак электроннай кнігі Русский: Фотография электронной книги (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When a piece of software is being updated often enough so newer features can enhance a user experience, people tend to care little about the terms of the agreement which came with the software .  Perhaps, the terms of the agreement for different software are varied in terms, and some might allow the buyers of the software to actually own the software.  Other software might come under the terms of licensing only, and by these terms the buyers of the software might not even know that the software they had purchased are not truly theirs.  This is understandable, because most people would gloss over the terms of agreement when there is a big ooO button which says click here to agree with the terms before you can install the software.  Have you ever purchased a software that would present you the terms of agreement first before you pay up?  To the best of my knowledge, I don’t remember any software purchase I had made over the Internet (i.e., digital download) would ever present me the terms of agreement before I already had paid up with a credit card.  Has common sense told us that we should have only agreed to something first before we purchase anything?

The digital age is rather convenient but senseless as hell.  Why is that?  Not only software front is unclear about who own what when a transaction has made, other digital types of purchase are being challenged in the same sense.  NBC News came out with a piece with the title “You don’t own your Kindle books, Amazon reminds customer,” and as I read this an anger simmers inside.  I’m not angry at a particular entity or a person, but I’m angry at how we, the consumers, have allowing the murky water to darken otherwise a pretty clean understanding of what a purchase really means.  When people are forking over money for any good, whether it would be digital or not, people should have a guaranty of some sort that their purchase would not end up be meaningless when the meaningless is not of their own fault.  This means, as long a buyer of something isn’t breaking something on purpose after he or she had purchased the product (digital or not), this very person should not bear the brunt of a complicit understanding that the access to a purchase isn’t in the control of the eventual owner (i.e., a buyer of a product ).

I love books, and sometimes I have to admit I purchase books for the thinking that I will read them later on.  Sometimes I do read some of the books that I’ve purchased on a moment of temptation, and sometimes I forget about them completely.  Then there is that time that I pat myself for purchasing a book early on, because such a time inspires me to go on and read and not have to go on and ponder on the prospect of owning such a book.  As a book lover and a reader with a small brain that can hardly contain much after a reading, I think highly of a book purchase.  I want to know that whatever book that I want to purchase will be able to allow me to have access to it for its entire lifespan.  With a physical book, physical damages can definitely shorten a lifespan of a book.  With a digital book, a file corruption can just be as lethal.

Since digital books have become so prevalent today, it’s in our interest to ponder on the meaning of purchasing a digital book.  Is it truly necessary to actually own digital books?  The prevalence of digital books have upended the possibility of actually owning a book as the case in which NBC News had reported, and knowing this is truly saddening me.  It’s saddening me not because I might not be able to revisit the same book decades later, but it’s more of a case of knowing a digital book outlet can turn off one’s account to prevent one from having any access to a digital library that supposedly being owned by…  Perhaps, owning a digital library is not actually owning?  When one cannot truly own a copy of a digital book, is it worse than a book burning?  Of course not, because a book burning equates to eradicate all copies of a book from the existence, thus some important knowledge might as well be lost.  With having said blocking one from his or her digital book library isn’t as bad as book burning, this is still pretty serious.  This begs us to ask, isn’t digital-information age is all about spreading more knowledge and not about having barriers between a woman and her books or a man and his books?

It’s understandable that some degree of greed is tolerable.  A good example of this would be a software which gets update often with newer features… and the buyers don’t have to actually outright owned this software as they’re more of renting it even though they are actually buying it.  I think it’s intolerable for digital books to be treated just the same as software.  Even a technical, digital book that gets update often with newer knowledge, the buyers still have to purchase the updated version of the book with the same or even at a higher price.  There is no guaranty that any software that is being updated will have a cheaper upgrade price, but it’s mostly the case that we see newer versions of many software get cheaper upgrade prices.  The same thing cannot be said for most books, digital or not.  With this understanding, I think vastly different digital products should be purchased and owned in different manners.  Personally, I think the acts of buying and owning digital books should equate to  the acts of buying and actually owning digital books.  How come I didn’t compare the acts of buying and owning of digital books to the acts of buying and owning of physical books?  It’s because I think the acts of purchasing and owning digital books should speak for themselves.  For an example, nobody should have to ever again fear that one cannot have access to her or his digital book library just because he or she might anger a digital book outlet overlord for whatever reasons.  Sure, a person can just go to another digital book outlet to purchase the same books to build a digital library again, but this means this person has to spend more money for the same things.  One has to wonder though, what if several specific books would only be carried by the digital book outlet which had banned a person’s access to his or her digital book library?

In conclusion, it might be wrong of me to think that it’s almost OK for one to complicit in renting a software even though one actually is purchasing a software.  It also might be wrong of me to almost compare the case of being banned from a (paid for and owned by) digital content library as to a case of book burning.  Nonetheless, I think we have to admit that having a common sense on owning digital contents is really really important.  Furthermore, to narrow down our focus, I think it’s super important for us to have a common sense on owning digital books.  After all, digital books have become so prevalent!  Digital books are so prevalent in a sense that people tend to reach out for them more than otherwise.  Whether people want to acquire knowledge conveniently or not through the mean of digital books, digital books are so ready to be purchased on a moment of temptation.  Perhaps, digital books will become one of the few preferable ways for people to acquire knowledge fast and cheaply.  As digital books may become even more prevalent than how they already are, it’s in our interest to know and question our digital book consuming behaviors (i.e., buying and owning digital contents).  Thus, I wonder is it truly necessary to actually own digital books?


Just A Wild Thought: Electronic Magazine With Bendable Electronic Pages

English: Covers of backissues of ARMOR magazine

Image via Wikipedia

I have heard some tech companies are working on making bendable electronic devices that are super thin and wide.  If they are able to produce something like that which can be resemblant to a piece of paper, imagining the wide applications this technology can bring about.  Here is one I think of, but I’m not sure how hot or even cool it will be.  We know how old magazines work, right?  You flip it, flip it again, and flip it some more till you flip to the very end of a magazine.  Well, won’t it be cool if you buy an electronic magazine once, and the magazine company has to try to figure out how to fill those electronic magazine pages with their contents.  If this idea/technology ever makes debut, I wonder will you and I will be flipping electronic magazine pages with joy?  Of course, the whole idea is to allow magazine companies to update their magazine contents wirelessly and periodically without your interventions.  It’s obviously that you have to subscribe to a magazine company for your electronic magazine to work.  In fact, one electronic magazine should be able to display contents from multiple magazine companies that you have subscribed to.  Just a thought really — this technology might never happen!

Why Do Shoppers Bother With More Than Few Successful Online Stores?

Oxfam online shop advert

Image by net_efekt via Flickr

Why do we even bother to shop at different online stores even though we hardly have to physically move about?  Perhaps, it’s convenient for us to just type another web address into the browser’s address bar, but it is not so pleasant for us to have to land on mediocre online store after mediocre online store, right?  Time in minutes does worth something so to speak.  Also, how can we trust new, mediocre online stores when we have huge online retailers such as Amazon?

Besides the conveniency of visiting online stores and trust factors, what more for us to consider having more online stores would be the way to go?  Perhaps, online shoppers are always onlooking for better online deals?  Obviously, the Internet is making it unbelievable easier to search for better deals than actually move about from one brick and mortar store after another.  Huge online stores such as Amazon makes it even easier, easier for online shoppers to search their stores for great deals of the day, the month, and the year.

Still, the question lingers in my mind is why people even bother to shop at different online stores even though the physical movement isn’t a part of the shopping equation?  Usually, the right sight, smell, taste, and touch of various shopping items might lead to an enhance shopping experience.  Even the smile from a retail clerk and a conversation with a friend in a retail store might lead to unwise spending but a happy shopping experience nonetheless.

Online shopping is way more private, but it can be done with social elements.  I think though, online shoppers prefer shopping in disguise more than announcing what they want to buy to the world.  In brick and mortar stores, shoppers will only have to worry how couple friends or family members with them at the time would know what they want to buy from the get go or how unwisely a purchase they make on the spot, but online shoppers can unwisely allow the whole Facebook know what they have done at what online stores.  Perhaps, announcing to the whole world (i.e., the Internet) of what you have purchased or shopped for is not as pleasant as just having few people around you in a brick and mortar store know what you have purchased or shopped for, right?

What online stores lack can be covered with providing shoppers with extra unique information and great amount of testimonies.  Unique information such as product comparison charts can add more values to online shopping experience than otherwise.  Online testimonies such as product rating and comments from other online shoppers can help online shoppers make their decisions on purchasing whatever online.  You certainly can’t do something as reading countless product testimonies in brick and mortar stores as easy as online stores, but it can be done.  Nonetheless, I don’t see brick and mortar stores have yet installing high tech equipments to allow shoppers to experience something similar to how things go when shopping online.  Of course, they can provide mobile apps to allow brick and mortar stores’ shoppers to experience product rating and testimonies, but this might also require brick and mortar stores to garner certain credible online presences for shoppers to use their mobile apps.

Without further nitpicking the differences between brick and mortar stores and online stores and what are the advantages and disadvantages between the two retail universes have, let me make a bold theory on how the future of online stores might become.  I think, online stores will eventually consolidate into only few big online stores.  Online shoppers do not actually need to venture to different online stores since they can’t really feel that they’re actually sweating from their shopping walkabout of brick and mortar stores.  Online stores aren’t for sightseeing, but these stores are for finding the best deals there are.  With that in mind, I fear mediocre, mid size online stores won’t have a chance of offering as many great saving deals as how bigger online stores can.  I think eventually, only few biggest online stores will stick around, mediocre online stores die out, and unique mom and pop online stores barely survive but survive nonetheless for these might have the ability to offer unique local products that can be found nowhere else.

How about brick and mortar stores of the future?  It might be so obvious that only big online stores such as Amazon would be able to have huge and successful brick and mortar presences.  My prediction for the future of brick and mortar stores will follow a similar pattern to how I’ve foolishly and boldly predicted the pattern of the future of online stores with a twist.  It’s that brick and mortar stores of certain attractive local hangouts and tourist destinations might end up to last with or without the need for a successful online presence.  To end my foolish predictions on retail universes, I have only to say that nobody knows the future, but one can instinctively project one’s thinking of the future of something; in this case of mine, it’s about the future of the retail universes.  (And I could be dead wrong!)