Using AI + AR technology to help consumers make more sustainable choices

We’ve been thinking about how we can use technology – informed by behavioural insight – to help people make more sustainable choices.  

Research suggests that consumers, when asked, are willing to buy green products or services but often this does not translate into actual purchases, or more important, habitual behaviour. Understanding the barriers to this behaviour are essential in bridging the ‘attitude–action gap’.

This experiment focuses on the adoption stage, and seeks to highlight opportunities to make more sustainable choices in the context of a user’s life (their home or regular routine) and leverage the trust they place in the everyday tech (smart phone). It presents a product value comparison using easy to understand measures, as well as removes frictions to purchase (or switch), which have been identified as the major barriers to purchase.

In this proof of concept we experimented with AR and AI. We programmed an artificial intelligence (AI) to detect food and electronics products in a 3D space (our rather messy studio). We use a fairly basic augmented reality (AR) setup to allow the user to scan their space to detect objects based on a criteria. The AI detects objects in the context we set, then pattern matches objects from a database we built. In our test we attributed sustainability scoring to objects based on simple criteria like recyclability or carbon footprint (to point of purpose). In the next phase of development, we’re going to build or adapt an API to public product databases to give it more to play with and use more complex datasets. 

Sustainability is an accumulation of actions that must accrue over time. There are some actions that have more impact than others, but really its needs to be a holistic approach to how we each live. Behaviour is the key to unlocking that change. Understanding what influences people in their actions empowers us to design better products and services. Setting context, communicating appropriate value relative to that context, and removing friction is a strong foundation for enabling adoption.

There are some really exciting products coming onto the market that help people make more sustainable choices (check out CoGo – it’s a highlight amongst them). There is so much opportunity to innovate in this space. Start-ups will make leaps, but I wonder if the really big opportunity is with the huge consumer companies, like banks or retailers. What if Amazon Prime primed its users to make more sustainable choices, ranking products by their sustainability creds? The big banks have so much customer insight here. If it was well framed they could provide the level of customer experience the digital banks are providing by helping people become more sustainable, saving them money and building trust along the way.