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AI and computer vision were not necessarily top-of-mind for Sodexo, a food and facilities management company that runs over 400 university dining programs, which was looking for a future-forward, seamless experience to offer students instead of the usual buffet meal options.

All the company knew is that they wanted something like Amazon Go’s cashierless, shop-and-go stores. That is, where shoppers can walk in, pick items off the shelves, and leave without standing in line at the cashier or suffering through swiping codes at the self-checkout. 

“Students today want things they can partially or fully prepare in their room or apartment, with organic, highly-local options,” said Kevin Rettle, global vice president product development and digital innovation at Sodexo. “We also wanted to remove friction, but many solutions still require the interaction of the guest with a cashier – this generation really doesn’t want to talk to a lot of people in their service interactions.” 

For the University of Denver, Sodexo chose the San Jose-based AiFi, which offers a frictionless and cashierless AI-powered retail solution. Its flexibility (the company says it can deploy two stores per week) and diverse locations (sports stadiums, music festivals, grocery store chains, college campuses and more) make it unique, explained Steve Gu, who cofounded AiFi in 2016 with his wife, Ying Zheng. Both Gu and Zheng have Ph.D.s in computer vision and spent time at Apple and Google.

AiFi, which is powered only ...