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China tapped by Japanese retailer as lab for automated stores

Aeon experiments with cutting-edge tech as more shops go staff-free

A vending robot developed by Aeon and DeepBlue Technology. Customers grab their items and complete purchases with the touch of palm. (Photo by Shohei Kono)

SHANGHAI -- Japan's Aeon opened a new research center in Shanghai with a local startup, aiming to reshape the future of retail by harnessing leading Chinese technologies like artificial intelligence and electronic payments.

The retailer demonstrated some new advancements at the facility. One robot greeted attendees with "ni hao!" -- hello in Chinese -- as it moved around the floor. Placing one's palm over the robot's sensor opens a compartment with refreshments and sweets inside. Customers whose palm prints are registered with cashless settlement services like Alibaba Group Holding's Alipay will automatically complete payment as they grab their snack.

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