Marks and Spencer is to trial a virtual sales assistant alongside its self-checkout till (SCOT) and said that it would also roll-out the tills to a further eight stores this autumn.

The virtual sales assistant is a fully animated 3D image called an 'Avatar' and based on a real life person. Lisa Brand, food manager at M&S’ Metro Centre in Gateshead, is the face of the ‘assistant’, where the trial is being held.

The assistant is ‘brought to life’ by a motion detector as customers walk past the self-checkout area, who are then guided through the self-checkout process by answering questions on an interactive touch screen.

Head of store systems at M&S, Ralph Marshall, said: "The trial of the checkout assistant will not only enable us to take the self-checkout concept to the next level, but will further enable staff to focus on more value-added services."