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Hardware Idle Technology

Kinect Grocery Cart Follows Shoppers Around the Store 155

Posted by samzenpus
from the shop-smarter dept.
cylonlover writes "When Chaotic Moon Labs debuted the Kinect-powered Board of Awesomeness — and its mind-reading offspring, the Board of Imagination — that was apparently just a preview of a more practical product the company had in the works. Grocery store chain Whole Foods recently gave a demonstration of Chaotic Moon's latest device, which uses the same technology in a self-propelled shopping cart. The 'Smarter Cart,' as it's been named, can detect what items are placed in it, match those to a shopping list, and even follow shoppers around the store on its own."
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Kinect Grocery Cart Follows Shoppers Around the Store

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  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Tuesday March 06, 2012 @11:24AM (#39261217)

    Please place the item in your cart. You have 20 seconds to comply.

  • by ArsenneLupin (766289) on Tuesday March 06, 2012 @11:26AM (#39261233)
    ... and the cart can't find its way around the other shoppers. Remember, compared to its "owner" the cart is rather bulky, and may have some trouble advancing in situations which pose no problem for the owner...
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Presumably this is why they're trialling it at Whole Foods. More than one person in the store is an edge case they can safely ignore.

      • Whole foods has the most narrow isles and crowded stores of any grocery I have been to. At first I thought it was just the particular store I was at, but then visited one across the country and it had the exact same layout and spacing. I hate being in that place, even with just a basket. I can't imagine having to use a cart in there, but I only ever go to pick up a couple things that aren't in other groceries.

        • by DrgnDancer (137700) on Tuesday March 06, 2012 @12:04PM (#39261715) Homepage

          It really depends on the store. The original Whole Foods in New Orleans was, as we all used to joke, like shopping with 50 of your closest friends in a closet (It was by far the smallest non-family-owned grocery store I've every been in, even the A&P in the French Quarter was larger). When they built the new one uptown it was much more open and nicer. Now that I'm in the Boston area, the ones in Cambridge (near Mass Ave) and Woburn are definitely smallish and occasionally uncomfortable, the other one in Cambridge (near Alewife) and the one in Dedham are great though. As much or more room than any normal grocery store. I think a lot depends on age and location. The earliest ones were built where ever they could get the cheapest rent, as time went on 9and profits went up) they went to the medium sized stores for smaller markets or already served areas, and actually large nice store for flagship locations.

    • by rolfwind (528248)

      It's a nice proof of concept but I agree with you on the navigation, as well as hearing a store full of those would drive me nuts, hell, it announcing I'm buying anything personal, like condoms would suck. Plus I'd imagine in that current form, it will just get stolen.

      OTOH, what I really want in a store is help. Human help is often hard to find, having to track it down and half the time they seem clueless. I wish that at the end of every aisle or something predictable like that, I could find kiosks that

      • by Talderas (1212466)

        it announcing I'm buying anything personal, like condoms would suck.

        Suck or awesome depending on who you are and what your goal happens to be and your current relationship status/potential.

        Go to a store full of good looking gals that uses these devices. Have it announce you're buying condoms. Once you get them back to your basement employ the naked man strategy for a 66% chance of getting laid out of pity.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Place items into your 'virtual' cart.
  • I would like it to also tell me what asile the peanut butter is in
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Joy, great joy! Another damned monitor [almost] no one needs embedded in yet another lazygenic device. Isn't moving our asses way better that using this kind of technology?

    There's plenty of real needs to solve, please stop designing teh futurez.

    • by Yvan256 (722131)

      I'd be interested in the shopping assistant to warn me about allergies and help me find items around the store. The automated, follow-me-around part of the idea, not so much.

      Then again, if someone made a mistake in entering the allergies information about the products, I won't trust the system anyway. Just because there's no "milk or cheese" doesn't mean it's dairy-free. There's lactose in salt and vinegar chips, as a random example.

    • Joy, great joy! Another damned monitor [almost] no one needs ...

      I'm sure it will make subtile brand suggestions at the direction of Marketing...

    • I'd bring up two points. The first is that pushing a cart around hardly qualifies as "more exercise" than having it follow you. A friend of mine who is severely obese always wants to be the one to push the cart if we are out somewhere that has them. She calls it her "walker" and it actually makes walking easier for her (at least she doesn't use those damned electric chairs, and to be fair she's lost 40 pound in the last 6 months or so, so she's trying). I don't particularly care if my cart follows me ar

  • In the video, it states that you can complete a transaction and be free to leave the store from the cart. How are they going to prevent theft? I can easily jam something in my pocket or bag on the way out.
    • by dleewo (80434)

      I wouldn't think it's any different to the risks involves when they offer self-checkout counters

      • Current self checkouts are generally by an exit, with an employee monitoring the area. This gave me impression you could check out in the middle of the store.
        • The Stop and Shop chain in the Boston area has a scan and bag system that totally relies on customer honesty. You swipe your reward card at a kiosk and it gives you a handheld barcode scanner. You scan and bag your items as you go (they have scales near the produce and loose dry good sections that print a bar code for the scanner), and when you get to the check out you swipe your reward card again. The system wirelessly transfers your purchases from the barcode scanner currently affiliated with your card

    • by Thanshin (1188877)

      I can easily jam something in my pocket or bag on the way out.

      And then you turn around and he's just looking at you with his bright red eye.

      "What are you doing, Dave?"

      And then you realize that the security cameras are zeroing on you.

      And one of the cameras is suspiciously long and thin.

      And you notice a tiny red spot in your shirt.

  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Tuesday March 06, 2012 @11:41AM (#39261407)

    If they want to impress me, then find a way to let me order groceries from home to be delivered at my home at no additional charge.

    That has to be possible. Look at Amazon with their no shipping charges on anything over 25 dollars rule. If the grocery stores had that it would be amazing. And while some people might like going to the grocery store... I don't like shopping in person.

    How great would it be if you could order everything up at home, compare all the prices from a dozen outlets, and get everything you want right to your front door.

    Some might say it has to cost extra for that. But does it? Think of what you'd save if you didn't have to have so many grocery stores. Imagine if instead you had a small number of convenience stores for common items and everything else came from warehouses. The warehouses are there anyway. That's where the stores get everything from. So instead of a big truck coming around at 2 AM to restock the grocery store... the trucks instead move around your neighborhood dropping off packages of groceries. Frozen goods can be packed in ice. There is a theft issue there but we can work that out with something that looks like a big specialty mail box.

    This is doable and it would be much more efficient. Less traffic on the road. Less real estate wasted on a service that isn't required.

    Everything can go from the warehouse to our door step. Just a web prompt in between.

    Some people don't have computers? Put a kiosk in the convenience store and they can have it delivered to their home.

    Maybe this is a stupid idea... But I'd use it exclusively.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      What you describe sort of already exists - it's called Amazon Fresh, but it's only available in Seattle. No delivery charge on minimum orders of $50.

      • Checked the prices... seems like they're higher then the store.

        So... not impressed. They need to hit the store price point without a delivery charge... at least on orders over a reasonable value.

    • by Thanshin (1188877)

      In America you must pay for your home delivered groceries?!

      In Spain you just have to accept everything being closer to the expiration date than you'd have taken at the store but that's it.

    • by Yvan256 (722131)

      What we need is a huge physical network... Tubes, perhaps? Yes, a series of tubes would be perfect.

      • by Max_W (812974)
        But how to avoid problem of spam or terrorism via such tubes?
      • ... I'm imagining some Brazil like pneumatic tube system... Not practical of course but it would actually be awesome.

        Come on... how cool would it be if you could order something and then "thunk" it shows up in your tube! :D

    • by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday March 06, 2012 @12:00PM (#39261669)

      If they want to impress me, then find a way to let me order groceries from home to be delivered at my home at no additional charge.

      You want someone else to pay for the fuel and the manpower to individually ship your groceries to you... and this is the only way to impress you? I suspect you are going to have a very unimpressive life.

      Look at Amazon with their no shipping charges on anything over 25 dollars rule.

      You are failing so hard at economics right now it's hard for me to type this right now. Let's be clear on something: The shipping company gets paid. The delivery driver gets paid. The warehouse owner gets paid. And they're all making a profit. And you get whatever you ordered. Amazon is allowed to do stuff like that because they don't pay sales tax, which if you did the math you'd notice sales tax costs more than the "delivery tax" as it were. So basically, you're getting that "free" shipping because you're not paying taxes on what you ordered. But it's not free. And other companes offer "free shipping too". It works like this $price = $price + $shipping cost ...now the shipping is 'magically' free.

      My point here is that nobody's going to perform a service for you for free. Nothing is 'free'. Stop using the word 'free' in reference to a business transaction. There. Is. No. Such. Thing.

      Maybe this is a stupid idea... But I'd use it exclusively.

      *cough*

      • by Karmashock (2415832) on Tuesday March 06, 2012 @12:31PM (#39262065)

        First, you're being exceeding and entirely unnessarily rude. Rather then appear superior, this sort of behavior makes you appear childish. This is just a word to the wise in case you weren't aware pointless insults make you sound stupid.

        Second, obviously people get paid. However, there is an expense in maintaining retail space in the middle of a city. There is an expense to issuing mail coupons. There is an expense to having check out baggers in the store. There is an expense to having the managers. there is an expense to send trucks to the store and unload goods.

        I am hoping that by eliminating all of that there is enough savings to pay for the cost of having a truck deliver to the door directly. For example, leasing space often is 5 percent or a little less of total spending. By not having a store front they eliminate that and get five percent right there. Total number of employees per customer should also be reduced. Labor costs are typically the largest expense in any business. Any thing that can bring those costs down will probably have a big impact on the bottom line.

        So the economics aren't that irrational. Had you bothered to think about it a bit before acting like a spoiled child... you might have realized that. I suspect you're too interested in protecting your ego at this point to actually give the idea a fair hearing. But this is my likely vain attempt to have a rational discussion with you.

        • by sootman (158191)

          I will say, as nicely as possible, that I'm pretty sure you're still wrong.

          > However, there is an expense in maintaining retail space in the middle of a city.

          OK, so they won't need retail space, but they'll still need a lot of square footage to store all the food. And they need to be somewhat near their customers, no matter what, because the further away they are, the more they'll have to drive.

          > There is an expense to issuing mail coupons.

          So, instead of having a coupon for $2 off a $10 item, you'd ra

          • As to squarefootage to store the food... no they won't. The grosery stores already have warehouse space they use to supply their stores. Why would you need to double that? Simply use what you already have. Only instead of sending the trucks to the store they get sent to people's homes.

            As to coupons, I didn't say they wouldn't have coupons just that they wouldn't be printed. They'd be on the website which only costs the company money if people use them. But a paper coupon cost a lot of money. Do you know wha

        • by Mista2 (1093071)

          But also remember the big supermarkets are the draw card that brings people to the mall and provides a lot of foot traffic to the food courts, cafes and other smaller single purpose shops that operate in the region of a supermarket. The only problem is when Walmart moves in too, then the smaller shops disappear.

      • by timeOday (582209)
        You're just being pedantic. Instead of "why can't it be free," read it as, "why isn't it economically viable (i.e. more efficient than the status quo) to..." That's the real question, which you didn't address at all.

        The answer is, there's no intuitive reason, sitting at your desk, to know it wouldn't work. But in the late 90's people thought it would work, and invested millions in getting it going, and still couldn't break even. There is your argument.

        I don't see anything that might have changed the

        • Not everyone was on computers in the 90s. Most people are today. And as many other people have pointed out in this thread, many large companies are already trying this in pilot programs with success.

          Amazon apparently has a pilot program in Seattle. the prices are still above the grocery store but if they scale up that might come down quiet a bit. Big outlets like Costco have enough volume that they can demand better prices from producers and they tend to pass that on to customers as an inducement to use the

          • by timeOday (582209)
            Now that you mention it, computers are even more pervasive now - particularly smartphones. An app to quickly add an item to your 'basket' for your next delivery, without going and sitting down at the computer, would make it more convenient than it used to be. "Siri, add peanut butter to my grocery cart."
    • by Megane (129182)

      If they want to impress me, then find a way to let me order groceries from home to be delivered at my home at no additional charge.

      Yeah, that'd be a great idea! [wikipedia.org]

      • A fair point, but possibly they just did it the wrong way? The idea seems sound. Why did they need their own warehouse space for example? Why not make use of existing grocery store space?

        Possibly if Ralph's (large grocery chain on the west coast) partnered with them? That way they only need the servers and the trucks. The supply chain and the warehouses would already be there.

    • That invention is called a vegetable garden.
    • I live in the DC area, one of our local grocery chains has a service called Peapod, they use UPS style delivery trucks to deliver your order. The tractor trailer trucks that deliver from the warehouse to the store will not work for residential delivery.

      Harris Teeter has a service where they pick your order and leave it in a refrigerator at the front of the store you park at the entrance and load up your groceries.

      As an Amazon prime subscriber, I get 'free' shipping on almost everything from Amazon, however

      • Obviously this is going to start in big cities first. I live in Los angeles... not a dense city but a large one.

        As to Amazon prime... if you focus on Super Saver orders and try to order in 25 dollar chunks then you can get zero shipping charges without amazon prime.

        I order lots of stuff from amazon all the time and almost never pay shipping.

      • My wife spent a year in Boston before I got a job up here; and she broke her leg while up here alone. She made use of Peapod wile incapacitated. She has a generally favorable impression of the service, but still prefers to just go to the store now that she's mobile. Food is one of those things that I don't think the majority of people will ever want delivered as a matter of preference. Picking out the meat and produce that you want (as in the particular pieces rather than just type and cut), being able

    • by Above (100351)

      I used PeaPod (http://www.peapod.com/) when I lived in their service area and was generally happy. IIRC delivery was like $15 if you wanted a specific (and popular) time, but then they discounted the off times so most of the time I paid $5 or $0 for delivery.

      What I always wish they did was have set routes. If they told me "we'll be in your area every Tuesday and give you cheaper delivery as a result" I could have gotten in sync with that for all my regular orders and they wouldn't have had to go all over

      • Exactly. This is how the mail service works and how they used to deliver milk.

        Actually, when I was a baby, my mother had diapers delivered. I'm not ancient this was in the 80s... a guy would come by and drop off cloth diapers and pick up the soiled ones...

        It works because they have routes. Just like the garbage trucks.

    • by billcopc (196330)

      What you describe is FAR too intelligent for the current socio-economic climate. It also shits all over the grocers' thinly veiled upselling schemes, since a big part of the shopping "experience" is walking around a giant store full of tempting edibles, with the most common items intentionally spread out all over the place so you have to walk the entire goddamned store.

      Don't get me wrong, I'd love it if my local megagrocer had:
      - online shopping
      - ideally, 24/7 delivery, but I'd settle for 9am-9pm, in 4 hour

      • Well said, my impression of the situation is roughly the same.

        I think they'd also save on labor.

        I often shop at my grocery store late at night. I have odd hours and I'm in there at 2 am sometimes. They store is FULL of people from the warehouse. The people that work at the store don't actually stock it. Men in come in trucks every night, unload pallets of goods, and then run around the store to put everything on the shelves.

        What if every one of those guys rather then stocking the store drove a single truck

    • As someone else pointed out, there are companies doing this. One in the Chicago and Mikwaukee areas (and more I imagine) is Peapod.

      I've used them for years and the convenience of putting items on my list (iPad app) as I need them and then one button click to order is great. Having them delivered is even so convenient if you can plan a few days in advance to schedule an order. I might sound like a commercial message but I found they have really excellent produce and meat.

      I know the prices are higher than

      • My argument here is that they should be able to charge the SAME price as the store without a delivery fee. They're not paying for a store front and they're not paying for the people that manage the store. I don't see why the delivery trucks if properly managed would cost more then all the brick and mortar overhead combined.

        • Sorry if sounded like I was disagreeing. Indeed it would be good if they were able to keep prices similar due to saving on infrastructure (e.g. warehouse cheaper than storefront). I think part of true added cost is the "pickers" employed to package orders and people are accustomed to delivery charges so they can pass the cost along.

          Maybe as more players come in (and not the Webvan kind who could not control their zeal for growth) price will go down. Can alway hope!

    • if the grocery chains stuck to their current policies, the delivery folks wouldn't be paid dick, nor would they be full time (to avoid paying them any benefits including health insurance). But now they know where all the well-healed folks in town live - and when they won't be home, or are home... alone.
      • I don't really care about the endless and completely stupid labor disputes.

        Work for the company or don't. No one forces you to take that job. If the job sucks then quit. If enough people just quit the company would have to offer better wages. Who tries to make a career out of bagging groceries? It's a job teenagers do... spare us the living wage mantra.

    • by CCarrot (1562079)

      If they want to impress me, then find a way to let me order groceries from home to be delivered at my home at no additional charge.

      I have an alternate proposal for you: how about a simple pick-up service? The customer places the order and pays for it online, the store then pulls the items and puts them aside. One quick run to the store, no messing with aisle strolling or lineups or trying to keep the kids from grabbing every shiny thing in sight while hunting for asagio cheese, just pick up your pre-packaged order and head on home.

      If you don't want to deal with people at all, they could run something like a postal box service (with a

      • It would be better then nothing but not much better.

        As to not being home... I anticipate there being some means of leaving it at your home. Furthermore, if it comes on a scheduel every week or a couple times a week then you could be expected to make ONE or two appointments a week? Just have it come at a time when you will always be home for it. if that isn't possible then again, there should be a means for simply leaving it there without damaging anything. Something like a large specialized mail box. You ha

        • by CCarrot (1562079)

          It would be better then nothing but not much better.

          As to not being home... I anticipate there being some means of leaving it at your home. Furthermore, if it comes on a scheduel every week or a couple times a week then you could be expected to make ONE or two appointments a week? Just have it come at a time when you will always be home for it. if that isn't possible then again, there should be a means for simply leaving it there without damaging anything. Something like a large specialized mail box. You have to think of people "just doing things" this way. In the same way we have drive ways to accommodate our cars or mail boxes or cat doors. We add stuff like this all the time as needed.

          If you have an apartment or condo complex it would be no big deal to either task the doorman with watching it or having a special compartment like the mail nooks for groseries.

          I guess my point is, delivery times are rarely available outside 'working hours', which are so named because...well, people are usually busy working in them. It's always been frustrating to me when ordering online, even more so since most carriers won't let you request that they hold it at their depot for pickup until they've tried to deliver it a couple of times and failed...it always adds a day or two onto my delivery times, completely unnecessarily.

          I suppose something could be set up for home drop-off s

          • You get the idea... I'm only arguing that logistically and economically it's probably more efficient which means it's something we could do right now if people were willing to commit to it.

            We'll see... I think it's the future.

            Actually, what I think will happen is that a robot delivery truck will drop your goods off and a personal robot will pick the goods up off the curb and put them away. That might be 30 years off but we already have trucks that can drive themselves. How long until all of that can be auto

    • by Mista2 (1093071)

      And then there is getting produce to the stores. Why not have the warehouses out by the farms? Then fresh produce can be grown and delivers locally 8)

      • Warehouses are frequently by farms already. But the freshest produce is loaded onto refrigerated trucks FROM the field and then from there shipped to the cities.

  • I love it!

    Would I be able to convince one to break away from its leader and follow me instead?
    I imagine an improv jesus + disciples thing; complete with loaves and fishes.

    It adds a whole new dimension to the kids grocery store experience.

  • It has always struck me as such a waste of time and effort to place items in a shopping cart only to have to take them out to scan them, and put them right back in. If we could have them 'pre-scanned' when placed in the cart, leaving only a final review and payment, we could put the items in our own bags from the get go. I can only assume this still hasn't come to pass for the fear of shoplifters and bar code fakery.
    • by rfuilrez (1213562)

      I I've seen this exact thing at the Dominicks food chain here in chicagoland. When you walk in the store there are mobile scanners you can grab. Scan as you go. On your way out you put it in a docking station and pay for it. Done.

      Admittedly i never used it as I Always preferred the Jewel-Osco chain. I dont know if all of them have this or if it was just the one where i used to live.

    • by Skater (41976)

      It has always struck me as such a waste of time and effort to place items in a shopping cart only to have to take them out to scan them, and put them right back in. If we could have them 'pre-scanned' when placed in the cart, leaving only a final review and payment, we could put the items in our own bags from the get go. I can only assume this still hasn't come to pass for the fear of shoplifters and bar code fakery.

      We've had it for years at my local grocery store. We usually don't use the system, but we will when the store is incredibly busy. We get a hand scanner to walk around with, and the carts have a holster for it. Just scan the item, put it in a bag in the cart, and then run through the register quickly to actually pay without removing anything from the cart. It also occasionally gives coupons. It works pretty well. My only issue with it is that it's hard to bag things efficiently when they come in one at

    • Stop and Shop in Boston does this already. You need a loyalty card and it relies on a handheld barcode scanner instead of a Kinect in your cart, but it's great.

  • by Picass0 (147474) on Tuesday March 06, 2012 @11:46AM (#39261483) Homepage Journal

    Without much more difficulty they could automate the whole process:

    1) voice recognition or remote interaction with the cart. - The shopper reads their grocery list to the cart and it goes on it's way. Your cart doesn't need to worry about colliding with people so it's free to move much faster on pre-programmed routes.

    shopper: "Kellog's flakes"
    cart: "Returns three results. Frosted, unfrosted, and with raisins. Please state preference"
    or
    cart: "Our Great Values store brand costs 20% less. If you were to buy store equivalents today you would save $27.00 total."

    The store apps for android and iphone are mostly spamware right now, but you could turn them into automated shopping cart list builders.

    2) Shelves use automation to load items onto the cart in a hands free process. Delicate items are loaded in a dedicated area by store staff.

    Shoppers wait in the front of the store in an expanded deli area. No checkout, just swipe your credit card and out the door. No more navigating around idiots in scooters. No more shoplifting. No more congested isles.

    • by glop (181086)

      Walking the aisles means you are exposed to advertising by looking at the packaging of all the other items you didn't want in the first place.
      That sounds like a feature that the stores would want to keep for as long as they can, no?

      • by Picass0 (147474)

        You can replace the upsell and cross-sell at the application or kiosk level. People will still find a way to impulse buy.

        There are section of any store that would not be desirable to automate - Buying shoes or clothes for instance. But now a store can focus better on where to place it's staff to assist consumers and secure inventory.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    just take the last reason my girlfriend need's me...

  • I can see it now for the average Slashdotter:
    "Dave, that candy is empty calories. I can't let you have it."
    "Who the hell are you to tell me what I can't have? You answer to me--"
    "I answer to your wife and she expects you home any minute. Don't make me tell on you."

    Who am I kidding? For the average Slashdotter replace "wife" with "mom" and "home" with "basement".

  • by need4mospd (1146215) on Tuesday March 06, 2012 @12:08PM (#39261771)
    Even with these automated carts, I'll still get the one that pulls to the left and sounds like a hyena got caught in the wheel.
    • No, with these fancy automated carts, you'll get the one with the faulty scanner that makes you stop every 2 feet, turn around, and wave to it so it can find you again.

      Ahhh, the wonders of technology!

  • Or is it just me?
  • Until the battery runs out, or they get pissy and don't let the carts out to play in traffic.

  • Phase 2 is when we follow our new, well welcomed robot overlords around. And I for one welcome them.

  • A supermarket in Japan tried that back in 1985. It's in the book "The Best of Japan 1985". It wasn't a commercial success.

  • The first thing I thought of was this Calvin&Hobbes cartoon [staticflickr.com]

  • I have this now and I don't need no stickin' Kinect. I just have my child push the cart and it "magically" follows me. Ok, sometimes it veers off a bit towards the toy aisle, but that's a bug I can live with.

  • Now that the cart follows you around and carries your stuff, they just need to get it to hover off the ground and technology will have caught up with first level mage spells.
  • ... three coats it will follow you out the door, down the street and into the alley to the dumpsters. Where the pickings for empties are good.

  • I wouldn't be surprised if some people took the cart outside, drove away with the Kinect and the tablet, and left the groceries.

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