Shopping centre owner intu is piloting new technology that lets people compete in giant video games whilst they shop as part of its start-up incubator programme, intu Accelerate.

Start-up business Rhythm is working with intu to test how massive gaming experiences in shopping centres could drive up footfall, attract younger shoppers and benefit retailers. Its product, Piing, creates multiplayer games for big screens that up to 200 people can take part in at a time using their mobile phones as controllers.

Picture by Shaun Fellows / Shine Pix Ltd

Hundreds of shoppers tried the technology for the first time at intu Merry Hill on Saturday, taking part in a series of games that included a dune-buggy race, a multiplayer game of tennis and a general knowledge quiz. intu Merry Hill’s retailers and restauranteurs got behind the initiative by offering prizes and intu is exploring brand sponsorship opportunities for future trials.

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Picture by Shaun Fellows / Shine Pix Ltd

Six more initiatives are currently being trialled by intu in partnership with start-up businesses as part of the company’s drive to introduce more game-changing technologies to the retail sector. intu became the first shopping centre landlord to introduce its own shoppable visual search tool this year, which matches up pictures with products from more than 500 retailers selling on, and has run a succession of virtual reality and augmented reality experiences in its centres.

David Fischel, intu chief executive, said: “We’re continuing to explore how technology could offer intu customers an even better experience and create new opportunities for our retailers to thrive. intu Accelerate is empowering our business to find more ways to innovate the retail industry in partnership with some of the smartest start-up companies out there.

“Hundreds of shoppers can take part in any one of these games at a time and this created a real sense of excitement among shoppers when we trialled the technology at intu Merry Hill. Retailers were also quick to get behind the initiative by providing plenty of prizes for those taking part so we think this is something we can build on with future trials.”

Last year’s intu Accelerate fast-tracked trialled retail robots, queue jumping apps, and online personal shoppers into its shopping centres and online at and intu has now signed up seven more start-ups who are testing their ideas to shape the future of retail. The programme is run in partnership with innovation specialists L Marks.

The other companies taking part in intu Accelerate this year are:

CarTap – provides secure access to vehicles to deliver shoppers’ bags straight to their cars
Grid Edge – saves money and reduces carbon emissions by using artificial intelligence to control energy usage
WeFiFo – an online marketplace that connects home cooks and chefs with paying guests
Greendeck – uses AI to help fashion brands and retailers automatically classify products into categories and attributes
Yosh.Ai – a virtual assistant that provides a personal shopping service
Roialty – hi-tech marketing platform that turns anonymous social media data into valuable customer insight