In mid-May, Microsoft for Startups brought a portfolio of 10 exceptional startups to the BEYOND Expo 2023 in Macao, discussing with founders and entrepreneurs the potential of AI and AIGC in the retail, e-commerce, and manufacturing space.
The discussion, organized by Microsoft for Startups, focused on AIGC’s impact on retail and consumer industry and featured Ling Fan, founder and CEO of Tezign; Tianlan Shao, founder and CEO of Mech-Mind Robotics; Shawn Ding, vice president of Whale Tech; Ken Wang, founder and CEO of BOOLV. The conversation below has been condensed and edited for clarity.
The conversation is the first panel of Microsoft for Startups’ AI+Retail and Consumer Tech Forum at the BEYOND Expo on May 11, focusing on AI & Generative AI technology’s impact on the retail and consumer industry. To learn more about Microsoft for Startups, click here or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ling Fan, founder and CEO of Tezign
Tezign provides software solutions that help businesses and brands deliver marketing content. We have built a digital infrastructure for creative content, offering global brands solutions for producing, managing, distributing, and analyzing various content. Tezign helps brands to do digital transformation by driving growth through content.
We are constantly seeking a path of growth that offers higher efficiency while offering better experiences. In the past, the process of developing and launching a product involved a lengthy content production phase. Creating the selling points, marketing, and generating interest in a product took significant time. However, Tezign’s system can now cut the timeline from months to days, or even hours.
As AI technology becomes a more ubiquitous underlying infrastructure, it will greatly impact brands and content production, creating significant changes.
Our first major change will occur in the way we interact. In the past, navigating complex systems required a series of clicks, but now we can activate them through conversations and chats. Secondly, as I mentioned earlier, 95% of data are mostly unstructured content, which was previously difficult to understand. However, now we can associate it with metadata and access these data. Thirdly, there will be immense improvements in content production scenarios, enabling more efficient and higher-quality generation of text, images, and even videos.
The fourth aspect is the ability to comprehend content, leading to various efficient ways to use content. Take the intelligent question-and-answer systems for example. Recently, we collaborated with Visa on a 300-page document that required permissions. We can easily engage in natural language conversations with the system, such as asking which benefits to use when visiting Macau with a Visa card. Furthermore, with new AI capabilities emerging every day, we constantly integrate new AI capabilities into our content ecosystem.
Tianlan Shao, founder and CEO of Mech-Mind Robotics
Mech-Mind specializes in artificial intelligence (AI) and 3D vision solutions. By combining 3D vision, deep learning, and advanced AI algorithms, the company provides cutting-edge solutions for manufacturing, logistics, automotive, and other sectors.
By integrating 3D vision, artificial intelligence algorithms, and robotics, we can create various applications. For instance, in e-commerce warehouses, AI-powered robots can assist in order fulfillment. Take the example of a tire warehouse in Japan where previously manual labor was required to handle the tires. Now, with the combination of artificial intelligence and 3D vision, robots can navigate and perform tasks in a wide range of new scenarios. This combination of AI and 3D vision is transforming robots, enabling them to operate efficiently in various industries and revolutionizing processes such as warehousing and logistics.
Our company is now expanding beyond the industrial sector. We are involved in manufacturing, logistics, including some retail operations, and even departments like hospital pharmacies. As I showcased earlier, we are also venturing into areas such as electric vehicle (EV) charging applications. The range of scenarios we cater to is continuously expanding, which aligns with the regular trend of technological development. For instance, when personal computers (PCs) were initially introduced, they were primarily used by large enterprises, then adopted by small and medium-sized businesses, and eventually became commonplace for individuals, including toddlers. Similarly, the technologies we implement in various robotic applications are progressing rapidly.
One significant transformation brought about by advancements like ChatGPT is that every company can now become a technology company. In the past, companies focused on specific areas like design, coding, or internet services. However, today, there are no excuses, and every company can harness the capabilities of AI, such as ChatGPT, to become, in some sense, a tech company. Therefore, in my view, GPT will further accelerate the permeation of technologies like robotics, AI, and automation into all industries. In the future, every company will utilize AI technology, just as everyone now uses computers. I anticipate this transformation will happen rapidly, possibly within the next 1,000 days.
Shawn Ding, vice president of Whale Tech
Whale Tech, a fast-growing provider of AI-based systems for retailers and brands that can be used across sectors such as automobile, cosmetics, and more. Its systems help brands make informed decisions and maximize profitability, transforming the retail industry through technology.
By tracking how consumers behave in stores and how salespeople are pitching products both physically and digitally, Whale’s solutions help retail businesses identify gaps that they can address to drive growth across both online and offline channels.
In recent years, particularly last year, Whale Tech has expanded its presence to Southeast Asia and Japan, opening new offices and gaining numerous new clients and case studies. The diverse development of digital channels has brought about innovative and enhanced utilization of marketing strategies. For example, the automotive industry has seen a shift away from the conventional practice of only buying cars from 4S dealerships.
Meidong Auto has seen success with its structured sales model, which begins with an online livestream session and transitions to offline experiences before retaining customers in the private chats of WeChat. This approach has resulted in 26% of their automotive sales orders being generated through livestream. Many other brands have adopted this model, recognizing its effectiveness in attracting and retaining customers.
In the field of AIGC, Whale Tech recognizes the importance of identifying the smallest achievable business case and realizing it with speed and efficiency. For B2B clients, it’s important they are embracing digitalization. Without a foundation in digitization, it becomes challenging to implement AIGC strategies effectively. By leveraging digitalization as a starting point, we assist clients in identifying their most pressing pain points and providing solutions within the shortest possible timeframe.
Ken Wang, founder and CEO of BOOLV
BOOLV provides marketing video and content production tools, and helps brands and businesses find efficient solutions for video marketing. Leveraging AI and algorithmic models, BOOLV enables users to generate various product videos targeted for e-commerce scenarios and provides tools such as face swapping, converting model images into videos, adding in virtual spokesperson explanations, and generating diverse visual materials.
In the era of smartphones, most of our visual data are actually in photos, not videos. However, in the future, the application of cross-modal technology can transform images directly into videos, allowing for more dynamic and engaging visuals. With virtualization technology, even the human subjects in the videos can be entirely virtual. This advancement significantly enhances video presentation and sales processes, making them more vibrant and captivating.
We have done extensive training to make sure products can look real on generated models, while also conducting background training to enhance material placement, regeneration, and evolution. Furthermore, we focus on layout training to address image degradation issues on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. In fact, we even offer customized solutions to help businesses shape their own unique intellectual properties (IP) and redefine their brand identity.
Unlike previous technologies, AIGC tech is more of a starter rather than a zero-to-one solution. It involves various intermediate stages where companies can make money. So it is up to companies to figure out when data integration becomes necessary, and how can users’ demands need to be met. Determining the return on investment (ROI) at each level requires user knowledge and understanding. Therefore, it is essential to focus on delivering value to users and understanding their specific needs. From the user’s perspective, they are more concerned with the outcomes you provide rather than the specific technologies or the frontend and backend experience. Ultimately, their primary concern is the impact on sales and the value you bring to their business. These are not solely technical issues but more user-centric ones.