Walmart Teases Generative AI Chatbot and Synthetic 3D Images for Online Shopping
Walmart has unveiled its plans to bring generative AI to customers, including as a shopping assistant and product image generator. The retail giant is beginning with the conversational generative AI assistant, with other features set to follow.
Walmart Generative AI
The generative AI-powered shopping assistant aims to aid customers with not just direct requests, but more expansive projects, such as planning for events, decorating homes, or comparison gift shopping based on specific details about the recipient. Walmart will also use generative AI to create 3D models of products from images. This allows visualizing furniture, clothes, and electronics realistically in physical spaces. It’s similar to Wayfair’s recently released Decorify service, which lets users upload photos of their homes and see what they might look like if redecorated in different styles using furniture available on Wayfair.
Walmart claims using generative AI for 3D modeling will reduce costs significantly compared to traditional techniques, shrinking the price of modeling by hundreds of dollars per item and cutting processing time to minutes instead of weeks. While Walmart is eager to showcase its expanding experimentation with generative AI, fueled by its bottomless bank account, the company remains coy on specifically which vendors or models are being leveraged. The idea is to remain flexible about who to work with and which models to employ, which Walmart calls the “Switzerland” approach to generative AI providers.
The foray into generative AI follows years of Walmart offering more basic chatbots for transactions. Walmart has worked with AI voice assistants since 2017 when it started offering direct ordering through Google Home devices before switching to Google Assistant integration in 2019 and adding Siri. There was also a flurry of conversational AI projects at Walmart’s Store Nº8 incubation division, including a Text to Shop feature allowing shoppers to text their list to a chatbot and the Ask Sam voice app to answer employee queries about product prices and locations. Walmart capped it off by acquiring conversational design firm Botmock in late 2021.
Walmart’s scale provides an advantage in piloting AI but also greater consequences if issues emerge. So, the final form of the generative AI tools will likely reflect the results of any pilot programs. In other ways, Walmart is trying to catch up with this particular technology. There are plenty of brands who were and are eager to sign up for ChatGPT plug-ins, and some shopping spaces have already dived headlong into deploying generative AI of their own. Microsoft has made ChatGPT an integral part of online shopping, Shopify created a generative AI chatbot named Sidekick, and Instacart has embedded ChatGPT into its search function.