Farfetch seeks to drive chatbot innovation with iFetch programme

Online luxury fashion marketplace and tech platform Farfetch has launched a chatbot development programme in collaboration with Portuguese universities.

The initiative, dubbed iFetch and co-financed by the Portuguese government, aims to develop a new generation of online conversational agents for use in eCommerce.

Farfetch has estimated the project, which will run in association with Universidade Nova de Lisboa and Instituto Superior Técnico, should be valued at €2.3 million. It is hoped the three-year development programme will result in fast-tracking chatbot technology in a retail setting.

The iFetch scheme is part of the Carnegie Mellon University Portugal programme, which is part of the Iberian country's efforts to drive national IT innovation.

Luís Carvalho, vice president for architecture at Farfetch, commented: “There’s still a lot to explore in the area of multimodal chatbots and I believe that this is a project with enormous potential.

“iFetch can bring significant innovations to online shopping very soon, allowing users to access information in a more natural way, and helping them to make better purchasing decisions.”

The launch of the Farfetch programme comes as fellow online luxury player Yoox Net-a-Porter (YNAP) embarks on its own innovation drive alongside the academic community, as reported by Essential Retail on Monday (1 June).

YNAP wants to drive the development of visual search and virtual try-on technology within online fashion, and has joined forces with the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia to create a joint ‘lab’ dedicated to progressing the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and computer vision in the sector.

Over the next three years, the online retail group will work alongside AImageLab, the university’s AI research centre, which is led by Professor Rita Cucchiara, director of the National Laboratory of AI and Intelligent Systems.