Innovating means listening to social needs and offering a different response. In other words, it’s a solution responding to a need that’s always existed, but in a completely new way.
Any time you talk about innovation, it’s inevitably described as something that breaks with or throws off the existing equilibrium. But that’s not always how it is. Often it’s a matter of simply listening to what is already present in our actions, as well as the social context we live in. I always thought that being an entrepreneur requires more than an ordinary job, like an ability to project yourself beyond and accept even the lack of understanding by the collective.
The context – Covid-19
The historical moment we’re experiencing has shaken to the core all of our certainties about work, our personal lives and maybe even our intimate relationships. Sharing in its many forms has been hindered and we’ve been obligated to concentrate on social individualism, which at least in this case focuses on collectivity rather than exclusion. We have to be the ones to bring the element of participation back to life. And it’s during this time that technology might just have the answer. Innovating means listening to social needs and offering a different response. In other words, it’s a solution responding to a need that’s always existed, but in a completely new way. In a year marked by Covid-19, every thought we have seems trivial, because we’re constantly faced with a concrete fact: companies need to figure out how to stay in business. But I preferred to look at it another way, trying to analyse the market and imagining solutions that can be adopted in the long run and not just for the current crisis. Thinking about how difficult it’s become to meet up with people, go to events and have discussions, I thought that we needed a technological solution that maintains a sense of humanity. Something to at least give us the illusion of contact. A product that’s aimed at the human dimension.
The Food & Beverage sector
On the one hand, the Food & Beverage sector has seen more of an increase in online sales than others. But on the other hand, all events in the sector have been cancelled, from show cooking and trade shows to tastings and sampling events. It’s an industry that had finally started a technological transformation which includes virtual tours, talking labels and AR tools, but has always had trouble digitalising. It’s hard to dismantle the conviction that technology, especially things like blockchain and traceability, can undermine values of tradition, history and territory. As if the actual concept of Made in Italy products didn’t need support from technology to increase visibility and engagement. On the contrary, during this period, many agricultural entrepreneurs had to come to grips with a social and economic context that’s been completely flipped on its head, where it’s become difficult to promote and sell their products without some kind of online presence. Or at least they had to get more familiar with tools and ways of working that they’d previously ignored. This is why we thought of a vertical startup within Dotfarm, derived completely from the concept and development of VR and AR products for the Food & Beverage industry.
In this gap created by the economic and social situation we’re in, experimentation is more important than ever. Starting a virtual dialogue can bring companies and consumers closer, promoting the human dimension. This is why we decided to create a product to facilitate direct communication and support interaction and exchange. If we could all have an expert consultant at home, someone who could recommend what to eat and drink based on our needs, I don’t think anyone would turn that down. This expert or basic consultant, a 3D avatar of a person, could ask us questions and listen to our answers about what we need. It would be a huge advantage. Our virtual sommelier is a conversational AR tool (which can also be adapted for food) that suggests products based on context and mood. The software, distributed with a SaaS model, allows for the collection of behavioural data through the integration of AI and machine learning.
A virtual sommelier: how it works
We like to call it the Alexa of Food & Beverage – an expert that converses, answers questions and proposes solutions based on each situation, need and mood. AR technology scans the environment in 3D and superimposes the virtual assistant in the space using the camera. After listening, the expert can share recommendations as a list of products selected and grouped based on the user profile. It’s a novel approach to help personalise the offering. How have we managed this? With Big Data. It’s the necessary ingredient to transform the entire industry – with data about taste, moments, feelings and emotions, it’s able to form a relationship with the consumer in a completely unexplored way.
With the goal to incentivise the digital transformation, there are multiple markets interested in the innovative products launched by Argo: online sales of wine and spirits, food delivery, big data and smart assistants + AR. Our AR tool is also adaptable for food, where a virtual chef suggests how to pair dishes, ingredients and drinks. As described above, the launch of Argo is in perfect timing with the spread of virtual assistant technology. AR is an even more effective evolution as it supports voice assistants with a virtualisation of the moment of purchase. If you consider that the market for SMART ASSISTANTS will be worth €15.6 billion, this gives you a concrete idea of the potential for the reach of our product.
During these historic times, it’s vital for companies to share a message of innovation in addition to engagement. ARGO is the evolution of the chatbot thanks to the integration of AR, AI and BIG DATA. Customer care needs an upgrade, and needs direct contact with the consumer in the exact moment that they need it, to give advice in real time. This develops a dialogue with the consumer, creating a dynamic of interaction and consultation without filters. Using it guarantees a deeper understanding of the customer and offers the chance to deliver ad hoc solutions. This is exactly the point: it’s the chance to have a virtual assistant that can converse directly and in an engaging way, with a customer base that is increasingly demanding and inclined towards immersive communication and gaming dynamics.
Michela Di Nuzzo
« Se scrivo ciò che sento è perché così facendo abbasso la febbre di sentire». - Fernando Pessoa Giornalista e co-founder, vivo il digital come imprenditrice e appassionata. Percepisco il cambiamento come un'opportunitá mai una minaccia. Occhi spalancati e orecchie aperte, sempre pronta alla condivisione, la chiave di ogni evoluzione.