Joyce Lam
Joyce is a Senior Trends Analyst at Mintel, focusing on capturing consumer behaviour for the Asia Pacific market, as well as supporting the global Mintel Trends team to identify new consumer trends.

Technological devices and digital platforms are being used to connect consumers and enhance their relationships with each other and with brands. From hotpot prepared and served by robot waiters, to emotion-recognition technology employed to predict crimes, we highlight five futuristic initiatives from the Asia Pacific region.

Dating in Disguise – China

Tech giant Tencent is piloting a new video chat-based dating app that features mandatory masks and filters. The app, named Maohu, enables users to anonymously date through five-minute video sessions with a virtual mask to cover their faces. Users will be matched based on their relationship intentions, which range from ‘just chatting’ to ‘single and looking for dates’. Male users are required to turn off the mask after five minutes in order to send friend invites, while female users have no restrictions and can remain masked the entire time. Once the mask is removed, the app applies beauty filters that can help smooth the user’s skin or make their faces appear narrower.

As communication technology advances, it will become even more convenient for people to stay in touch with family and friends, as well as meet new people who share similar interests. The latter, however, poses physical and mental threats to consumers as it is hard to control what their intentions are. Hence, to offer additional protection, we are likely to see more virtual filters and meeting spots, which users can ‘visit’ using their digital persona and develop virtual friendships and relationships until they are ready to meet up in person.

Credit: TechNode

Tap to Bottle – Japan

MyMizu breaks new ground as Japan’s first water app which connects users to 8,000+ free refill stations across Tokyo, such as public water fountains and partner businesses like restaurants, cafés and co-working spaces. Users can also upload refill stations they find, contributing to the ever-expanding map on the MyMizu platform.

As the second biggest producer of PET bottles, roughly 2.6 billion bottles in Japan are either incinerated, tossed to landfill or littered in the oceans on a yearly basis. While food and drink companies are gradually making an effort to reduce plastic consumption, apps such as MyMizu appeal to eco-friendly consumers who want to make sustainable choices. MyMizu allows businesses to increase foot traffic to their stores by being partner refill sites. In addition, the Japanese government can promote its sustainable projects through examples like MyMizu in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. According to the app’s official website, it is available for international download as well.

High-tech Haidilao – Singapore

Haidilao, the popular hotpot chain, has designed a futuristic outlet in Singapore, including talking robot waiters and fully automated soup preparation. Customers’ individual preference for their soup base will be recorded and uploaded to the cloud, and can be retrieved during their next visit. Beyond this, the outlet will also have a ‘5G experience corner’ where customers will be able to engage in interactive VR and AR e-gaming while waiting for their tables.

Haidilao is famed for its exceptional and unique brand of customer service. Leveraging robotics and 5G technologies will not only help the brand increase operational efficiency, it will also allow staff to shift their focus towards elevating the customer experience even further. While robots in restaurants may seem like a futuristic novelty, we can expect that Haidilao’s mostly novel use of technology will attract curious crowds who want to create unique, memorable and Instagrammable experiences.

Credit: JohorNow

AI-Motion – China

Emotion-recognition technology is being employed in Chinese cities to monitor the emotional state of citizens, identifying criminal suspects by analysing their mental state to predict crimes. The technology is mostly being employed at Chinese customs, where it is used to identify signs of nervousness, aggression and the likelihood of attacking others.

AI will soon be applied to make more decisions about consumers’ lives, so in addition to rational thinking, companies and engineers are seeking ways to make the technology more emotionally-intelligent as well. Technology companies are looking into emotion-recognition algorithms, which infer how people feel based on their facial expressions and movements. Essentially, the technology could be used in a variety of ways that range from automated surveillance systems, to coffee houses collecting customer feedback for their latest coffee product.

Empowered by Agritech – Indonesia

Kedai Sayur is an Indonesian agritech start-up that uses digital technology to facilitate the distribution of fresh vegetables to hawkers. Hawkers can browse for fresh commodities through Kedai Sayur’s app and pick them up at the nearest drop-off point, reducing the struggle of sourcing competitive produce and shortening the supply chain. The company also offers delivery vehicles called Si Komo, which stands for “Kedai on Mobile”, helping partners reach their door-to-door customers in a more convenient way.

In Indonesia, most people rely on vegetable hawkers to get their daily fresh produce. However, because of the complex nature of getting high-quality and affordable produce, vegetable hawkers often struggle and are left with low-quality produce and low profit margins. Kedai Sayur’s vast network and technology address this problem by working with farmers and hawkers directly for product sourcing and distribution. This illustrates how the under-served groups in society can benefit from technology inclusion.