This week, some 30,000 retailers from around the world descended on New York’s Javits Center for the 2014 edition of the National Retail Federation’s Annual Convention and Expo, better known as “Retail’s BIG Show.” With an exhibit space covering nearly four football fields and featuring more than 500 vendors, an exhibitor could have been overlooked easily—but not when your exhibit displayed retailing innovations that use the power of the Microsoft Kinect for Windows sensor and SDK. Here are some of the Kinect experiences that attracted attention on the exhibit floor.

Visitors at the Kinect for Windows demo station

NEC Corporation of America demonstrated a “smart shelf” application that makes the most of valuable retail space by tailoring the messaging on digital signage to fit the shopper. At the heart of this system is Kinect for Windows, which discerns shoppers who are interested in the display and uses analytics to determine such consumer attributes as age, gender, and level of engagement. On the back end, the data captured by Kinect is delivered to a dashboard where it can be further mined for business intelligence. Allen Ganz, a senior account development manager at NEC, praises the Kinect-based solution, noting that it “provides unprecedented actionable insights for retailers and brands at the point-of-purchase decision.”

Razorfish displayed two different Kinect-based scenarios, both of which highlight an immersive consumer experience that’s integrated across devices. The first scenario engages potential customers by involving them in a Kinect-driven beach soccer game. In this dual-screen experience, one customer has the role of striker, and uses his or her body movements—captured by the Kinect for Windows sensor—to dribble the ball and then kick it toward the goal. The other customer assumes the role of goalie; his or her avatar appears on the second display and its actions are controlled by the customer’s movements—again captured via the Kinect for Windows sensor—as he or she tries to block the shot. Customers who succeed, accumulate points that can be redeemed for a real (not virtual) beverage from a connected vending machine. Customers can work up a sweat in this game, so the beverage is a much-appreciated reward. But the real reward goes to the retailer, as this compelling, gamified experience creates unique opportunities for sales associates to connect with the shoppers.

The second scenario from Razorfish also featured a beach theme. This sample experience is intended to take place in a surf shop, where customers design their own customized surfboard by using a Microsoft Surface. Then they use a Kinect-enabled digital signage application to capture images of the customized board against the background of one of the world’s top beaches. This image is immediately printed as a postcard, and a second copy is sent to the customer in an email. Here, too, the real goal is to engage customers, pulling them into an immersive experience that is personal, mobile, and social.

Razorfish demos their customized surfboard scenario

Above all, the Razorfish experiences help create a bond between the customer and a brand. “Kinect enables consumers to directly interact personally with a brand, resulting in a greater sense of brand loyalty,” notes Corey Schuman, a senior technical architect at Razorfish.

Yet another compelling Kinect-enabled customer experience was demonstrated by FaceCake, whose Swivel application turns the computer into a virtual dressing room where a shopper can try on clothes and accessories with a simple click. The customer poses in front of a Kinect for Windows sensor, which captures his or her image. Then the shopper selects items from a photo display of clothing and accessories, and the application displays the shopper “wearing” the selected items. So, a curious shopper can try on, say, various dress styles until she finds one she likes. Then she can add a necklace, scarf, or handbag to create an entire ensemble. She can even split the screen to compare her options, showing side-by-side images of the same dress accessorized with different hats. And yes, this app works for male shoppers, too.

The common theme in all these Kinect-enabled retail applications is customer engagement. Imagine seeing a digital sign respond to you personally, or getting involved in the creation of your own product or ideal ensemble. If you’re a customer, these are the kinds of interactive experiences that draw you in. In a world where every retailer is looking for new ways to attract and connect with customers, Kinect for Windows is engaging customers and helping them learn more about the products. The upshot is a satisfied customer who's made a stronger connection during their shopping experience, and a healthier bottom line for the retailer.

The Kinect for Windows Team

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