Walmart’s Store No 8 Acquires Aspectiva to Bring A.I. to Shopping

Xconomy National — 

Walmart’s Store No 8 innovation arm has acquired an Israeli machine learning startup, the retail giant announced Wednesday.

Aspectiva joined the two-year-old Store No 8 Monday, and its employees will remain in Tel Aviv. “Store No 8’s record of innovation and of developing capabilities that will transform retail as we know it makes for the perfect environment to leverage Aspectiva’s technology throughout the shopping funnel,” Ezra Daya, Aspectiva’s CEO and co-founder, said in a prepared statement.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. For Walmart (NYSE: WMT), which is one of the world’s largest brick-and-mortar retailers, Aspectiva’s natural language processing and machine learning technology could bolster the retailer’s e-commerce tools and help engage customers online. The startup’s product analyzes user-generated content, such as product reviews, and tries to serve up more intuitive product recommendations based on a shopper’s browsing history and search filters. Aspectiva says its tools can also help shoppers in brick-and-mortar stores.

The Aspectiva purchase is Walmart’s latest link with Israel’s innovation scene. In October, the retailer made a strategic investment in Team8, an Israeli think tank and tech incubator, and launched a joint venture with Eko, an interactive media and tech company with offices in Tel Aviv and New York. Walmart also recently joined The Bridge, a tech accelerator connecting global companies with the tech startup community in Israel.

Walmart has embraced new technologies in the two years since it formed Store No 8, a move seen as a way to better compete with e-commerce giant Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN). The Bentonville, AR-based retailer has made a number of acquisitions for Store No 8 and, earlier this month, launched its newest startup, Spatial&.

The startup uses virtual reality to try and give store customers an immersive way to connect with merchandise. For example, Spatial& is launching its service with DreamWorks Animation to put a VR experience in parking lots of select stores. Shoppers can visit DreamWorks’ “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” movie in virtual reality, and will then be directed to a branded, physical gift shop in order to purchase items.