INDONESIA, July 28 (The Jakarta Post/ANN): Utilising artificial intelligence and augmented reality technology, Pasarina has launched a metaverse app where customers can meet a virtual assistant shop and discover “hidden” promotions.
The line between reality and imagination blurs in Pasarina, the newest supermarket by PT Supra Boga Lestari. The supermarket, established in the new Sarinah, Central Jakarta, adopts a metaverse concept that offers customers a new and unique shopping experience.
“We’re the pioneering retail in Indonesia that brings in a new, exciting shopping experience for our customers by using artificial intelligence technology,” Maria Suwarni, chief of merchandising and marketing officer of Supra Boga Lestari, said during a press conference at the supermarket on June 22.
According to Maria, the name Pasarina is derived from pasar (market) and ina, which stands for Sarinah.
The supermarket, which has been open since May 27, introduced its metaverse app, named Trust Live, during the press conference.
Local tech start-up Metaverse Studio Indonesia developed the app by combining artificial intelligence and computer vision in providing customers with an augmented reality experience while shopping in the supermarket.
It may sound like a lot of unfamiliar tech jargon for some, but the app works a lot like the game Pokémon Go.
Shopping in the metaverse
The app is currently available for gadgets with the Android 8.0 operating system at the minimum.
After downloading the app on their gadget, shoppers can walk around the supermarket with their cameras on.
Aim the camera anywhere in the supermarket, and they will see some exciting creatures popping out from between the aisles.
“It took us about a month to scan all the nooks and crannies in the store by using a special three-dimensional laser camera from the United States,” Adez Aulia, chief technology officer of Metaverse Studio Indonesia, said when interviewed after the press conference.
According to Adez, the 360-degree camera scanned approximately 200 locations in the 1,200sq m supermarket.
“The camera scanned six different angles from each location,” Adez said.
The scanned images were then developed into three-dimensional mesh models for the metaverse app. The app also uses computer vision technology, which “pings continuously” to calculate the distance between the object that the camera sees and the position of the customer so that it can make the right images appear onscreen.
“We have centimeter-level accuracy, which is higher than Pokémon Go’s, which is in metres,” Adez explained.
When Adez demonstrated the app on his tablet, a cute toddler-sized dinosaur appeared on screen as we entered the supermarket.
Hovering above the aisles are a cornucopia of twirling icons, such as a Javanese dance mask, a tuna and a large bottle of soya sauce, which signify the products being offered on the shelves.
When Adez pointed his tablet to a stack of mangoes in the fruit section, a bulletin board appeared onscreen, informing us of the fruit’s health benefits.
When customers are lucky, they might also encounter a nice surprise while scouring the supermarket with the app, such as Buy 1 Get 1 promotions or free products to claim.
“And they’ll only see these promos when they’re using the app,” Adez added. Joe Kanna, a product designer from Setiabudi, South Jakarta, loved the app.
“It’s a lot like treasure-hunting,” he said. “I discovered this buy-one-get-one dragon fruit juice [promotion] while walking around the supermarket with this app. It’s quite exciting.”
The app also offers a Guide Bot that acts as a virtual shop assistant in the store. All shoppers have to do is type in the product that they are looking for in the search section and a white bot, which looks like a small astronaut, will roll in to “meet” them.
The white bot will then ask shoppers to follow as it leads them through the aisles. The bot will announce the product’s name when it arrives at the section. To terminate its services, shoppers can just click the “end navigation” button.
“This is a very useful feature for me as a bapak-bapak (older man) that’s often lost in a supermarket,” said Chandra, a bank executive from Jl. Sudirman, South Jakarta. “By using the app, I don’t have to walk around in the large supermarket or try to find the shop assistant.”
However, Astuti, a housewife from Menteng, Central Jakarta, who was shopping in the supermarket with her toddler, said she was not really interested in downloading and using the app.
“I think it’s a bit complicated, especially when you have a lot on your hands,” Astuti said. “I prefer to just grab what I need and head immediately to the cashier.”
In response to the feedback, Maria said it was really up to the customers whether they chose to use the app or not.
“We’re just offering them a new (shopping) experience,” Maria said. “It’s really up to them whether they want to use the app or not. We don’t want to make things difficult for them.”
Several journalists found it difficult to download and use the app on their smartphones on the day it was introduced.
“It’s probably because (the store’s) located in the basement,” Maria answered.
“The signal from several providers might not be able to penetrate it. But soon, we’ll provide a WiFi connection to help our customers download and use the app effectively.”
Supra Boga Lestari also plans to apply the same app at all their 70 stores, including Ranch Market, Farmers Market, The Gourmet, Farmers Family and Day2Day.
Pasarina also offers a lot of exciting local products that are rarely seen in other supermarkets. In the tea section, it has the iconic Teh Bendera from Medan, North Sumatra, and the sweet-smelling Teh Prendjak from Riau.
Its chocolate section is a haven for chocoholics. Among the local brands being displayed are Cokelat Monggo from Yogyakarta and the premium Ghaura Chocolate from Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara.
“Few people know that East Nusa Tenggara produces some of the best chocolate (beans) in the world,” Maria said.
The supermarket’s soya sauce section is also fascinating. It consists of five shelves that display iconic soya sauce products from all over the archipelago, including Kecap Menjangan from Sidodadi, East Java, which are used by many satay peddlers on the street, and Kecap Benteng SH, which is said to be the oldest soya sauce product in Indonesia.
Besides local foods and beverages, Pasarina also offers the famous local cooking utensils by PT Logam Bima (Bima) from Bandung, West Java.
“Bima’s pans are widely recognied for their top quality,” Maria said.
“Few young people know about them these days. But the company has actually exported their products and produced some private-label [cooking utensils] for top international brands.”
According to Pasarina’s chief merchandising and marketing officer, the composition of local and imported products in the supermarket is currently 50:50.
“We’ll definitely add in more local products in the supermarket,” Maria said. “But we’ll curate them very carefully. We really want to support local SMEs (small and medium enterprises), while offering the best for our customers.”