Mighty AI spent much of its first five years building software that helps self-driving cars recognize real-world objects. The Seattle startup went so far as to open a Detroit office to cozy up to the auto industry.
Then last February, Mighty AI’s sales team received an unusual request: Instead of identifying pedestrians and cars, could they track items plucked from store shelves by shoppers? A few months later, Mighty AI signed a deal to do just that, joining the race to help brick-and-mortar retailers keep pace with Amazon.com Inc.
A year ago, the e-commerce giant opened a cashierless convenience store called Amazon Go, marking its biggest effort yet to change the way people shop in the physical world. Today a fleet of companies are working to replicate elements of Go or invent other ways of streamlining store operations.
Many are startups like Mighty AI, but established giants are wading in, too. Walmart has been testing Go-style technology, and Kroger and Microsoft recently announced a joint venture to bring elements of the e-commerce shopping experience to the grocery store.