Photograph by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images

When Robots Dance

  1. Gizmos Galore
    1

    Gizmos Galore

    Companies from PepsiCo (PEP) to Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCL) are adopting tablets, digital signs, touch-screen kiosks, and mobile applications designed to help customers interact with products before buying. They're attempting to capture the estimated 85 percent of purchases that will be influenced by some sort of digital experience in 2015, up from 40 percent this year, according to Gartner.

    Photograph by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images
  2. Veggie Scanner
    2

    Veggie Scanner

    Toshiba (6502:JP) makes an object-recognition scanner that uses a camera to identify fruits and vegetables for purchase in stores. It relies on the color and pattern of produce, rather than bar codes and numbers.

    Courtesy Diginfo News
  3. Pushing Pizza
    3

    Pushing Pizza

    Because getting pizza delivered to the door wasn't easy enough: Red Tomato Pizza in the United Arab Emirates lets hungry patrons request a pizza with the push of a button, using a magnet that relays orders using wireless technology. Red Tomato sends a text message to say that the pizza is on the way. 

    Courtesy Red Tomato
  4. Mirror, Mirror
    4

    Mirror, Mirror

    This mirror by Cisco Systems (CSCO) lets users try on outfits "virtually" without having to remove a single article of clothing. Using a 3D camera to capture a person's shape and hand motions, the device projects different items onto a person's body. The shopper can make the purchase then and there or go online using a digital record of the session.

    Courtesy Cisco
  5. Social Soft Drink
    5

    Social Soft Drink

    Using PepsiCo's social vending machine, soft drink lovers can send a beverage as a gift, along with a personalized text message or even video recorded at the machine, to a recipient at a machine in another location altogether.

    Courtesy Pepsi
  6. Tale of the Tablet
    6

    Tale of the Tablet

    Restaurant tablets by E la Carte, a Y-Combinator startup backed by the founders of Groupon and Dropbox, use touch-screen technology to help diners decide what to eat, then pay for orders with a built-in credit-card reader. The tablets can result in sales that are about 10 percent higher, and about 300 restaurants use them, E la Carte founder Rajat Suri says.

    Photograph by Kathryn Rummel, Courtesy E la Carte
  7. Dancing Robots
    7

    Dancing Robots

    At this restaurant in China's eastern Shandong province, robots carry out a range of tasks, from waiting tables to dancing for entertainment. One female robot greets customers with batting eyelashes and a mechanical "Welcome," according to the Telegraph.

    Photograph by Beijing Times/EyePress News
  8. Waiterless Restaurant
    8

    Waiterless Restaurant

    Waiters don't take diners' orders at Vapiano, a chain of Italian sit-down restaurants. Visitors instead tap a card to place orders for pasta, salad, pizza, or drinks and pay a host on the way out for what's recorded on the card. Vapiano started using the cards in 2001.

    Photograph by Gunther Gluecklich/laif/Redux
  9. When Kiosks Remember
    9

    When Kiosks Remember

    Kiosk company EMN8, used by fast-food companies such as Domino's Pizza, lets users order food quickly via touch screen. The kiosks remember an order and store the data in the cloud.

    Courtesy EMN8
  10. No-Line Cruise
    10

    No-Line Cruise

    Royal Caribbean Cruises's Oasis class of cruise ships, seeking to ensure that passengers stand in few lines, uses touch screens for such tasks as giving directions and showing restaurant capacity.

    Courtesy Royal Caribbean
  11. Bloomie's Pods
    11

    Bloomie's Pods

    The Bloomingdale's department store in Santa Monica uses dressing rooms that drop down from the ceiling, letting shoppers try on clothes without leaving the sales floor.

    Courtesy Bloomingdales
  12. Kraft Cares
    12

    Kraft Cares

    Kraft Foods (KFT) interactive signs, powered by Intel (INTC) technology, make suggestions on what the person may want to eat, with Kraft products undoubtedly as part of the lineup. It then uses software that analyzes video to determine the user's demographic and length of time he or she interacted with the sign.

    Courtesy Kraft
  13. Melt With You
    13

    Melt With You

    The Melt is a casual restaurant chain that opened in San Francisco in 2011 and specializes in grilled-cheese sandwiches. Founded by Jonathan Kaplan, who founded Flip Video, the restuarant lets customers place and pay for orders online, receive a QR code via e-mail, and scan the code for faster service once they get to the restaurant.

    Photograph by Sean Murphy/Getty Images
  14. Information Please
    14

    Information Please

    New York City's Metropolitan Transit Authority is getting in on the digital-sign trend with 47-inch touch screens that offer subway users real-time trip planning and local shopping and dining options.

    Photograph by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images
  15. Hot or Not
    15

    Hot or Not

    Krispy Kreme Donuts' (KKD) "Hot Now" iPhone app and desktop widget uses location-based technology to help users find fresh out-of-the-oven donuts at a nearby shop.

    Photograph by Tim Boyle/Getty Images