Just because you can't see a sales clerk doesn't mean you can't get help from one--or from a fellow shopper, even one in a distant aisle.
That's the premise behind the DIY Shopper project under development at IBM's research facility in a stately Georgian manse in southern England. The concept retail Web site, developed with retail group Kingfisher, uses Web 2.0 concepts--not just blogs, but also buddy lists of in-store advisers and people doing similar projects. While store employees would use tablet PCs to access DIY Shopper and communicate with customers, the shoppers themselves would use their cell phones, as in this photo, where a helpful Stacey has arranged via text message to meet a customer in the garden section "in 2 minutes."
Even more helpfully, perhaps, the system could send shoppers money-off vouchers.
DIY Shopper also interacts with Second Life, meaning your avatar could do a lot of the legwork. IBM's Hursley crew, meanwhile, is working to show how ATM banking channels could be used in the virtual world.
To get a closer look at this technology, check out Silicon.com's photo gallery, via News.com: "Photos: IBM lifts lid on Web 2.0 tech."