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Microsoft Businesses Robotics

Microsoft is Working on Technology That Would Eliminate Cashiers and Checkout Lines From Stores, Says Report (reuters.com) 252

Microsoft is working on technology that would eliminate cashiers and checkout lines from stores, in a nascent challenge to Amazon.com's automated grocery shop, Reuters reported, citing six people familiar with the matter. From the report: The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant is developing systems that track what shoppers add to their carts, the people say. Microsoft has shown sample technology to retailers from around the world and has had talks with Walmart about a potential collaboration, three of the people said. Microsoft's technology aims to help retailers keep pace with Amazon Go, a highly automated store that opened to the public in Seattle in January. Amazon customers scan their smartphones at a turnstile to enter. Cameras and sensors identify what they remove from the shelves. When customers are finished shopping, they simply leave the store and Amazon bills their credit cards on file. Amazon Go, which will soon open in Chicago and San Francisco, has sent rivals scrambling to prepare for yet another disruption by the world's biggest online retailer. Some have tested programs where customers scan and bag each item as they shop, with mixed results.

Microsoft is Working on Technology That Would Eliminate Cashiers and Checkout Lines From Stores, Says Report

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  • by dryriver ( 1010635 ) on Thursday June 14, 2018 @11:27AM (#56783482)
    I don't know who Microsoft think they are. First the murky telemetry in Windows 10 that cannot be switched off. Then Microsoft Office becomes a cloud only tool. Next, Microsoft's CEO is pushing all sorts of "YOU OWN NOTHING" cloud crap - your games, apps, software all go cloud-only. And now I go to a bricks-and-mortar store and Microshaft of all companies tracks what I'm putting in my shopping cart? F you, Microsoft. Privacy invaders. Data thieves. Conscience free arm-twisters. Cleptomaniacs. I am not shopping at ANY store that has the Microsoft system in it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by DogDude ( 805747 )
      Microsoft is not in the business of data mining. Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, all ISP's, and all credit card companies are. You don't know what you're talking about.
      • by XxtraLarGe ( 551297 ) on Thursday June 14, 2018 @11:49AM (#56783648) Journal

        Microsoft is not in the business of data mining. Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, all ISP's, and all credit card companies are. You don't know what you're talking about.

        So all those ads they have on Bing [microsoft.com] are just served up at random? Pro-Tip: Everyone is data mining.

      • Microsoft is not in the business of data mining. Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, all ISP's, and all credit card companies are. You don't know what you're talking about.

        Oh, so all of the telemetry data Microsoft collects is just for fun?

        Given US corporations history of data mining, it takes a certain level of blind ignorance to assume Microsoft isn't doing exactly what every one of their competitors is doing, and for the same damn reason.

      • I will grant you Google, Amazon and Facebook because we've seen it in the past, but show me where and how Apple are doing data mining about the individual users?

        • by DogDude ( 805747 )
          I would imagine that they do, considering you need an Apple ID to use an Apple Phone and Apple Pay. All Apple Pay information is given to the credit card companies, too, so I would imagine they do some serious data mining.
      • Microsoft is not in the business of data mining.

        Bullshit they aren't. Bing gets its revenue from ads. Linked-In gets lots of money from data mining. Microsoft sells data mining tools [wikipedia.org]. Your faith in Microsoft on this topic is wildly incorrect.

      • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Thursday June 14, 2018 @01:22PM (#56784334)
        I own my own domain so I can create my own email addresses. I assign every company I deal with its own forwarding email address. So for example, I sign up for Microsoft services using microsoft@mydomain.com. Banks, online shopping sites, topical forums requiring an email address, services like Roku and Plex, etc. - they each get their own email address. I'm at over 700 different email address now. 700+ different companies I've signed up for services with over 15 years. The vast majority of them adhere to their privacy policy promising not to sell my email address to marketers.

        The two notable exceptions are Microsoft and Adobe. I began receiving spam at both of the email addresses I'd assigned to them. The Adobe one began getting spam shortly after they were hacked, so I suspect they didn't sell me out (at least not deliberately). The Microsoft email however got several waves of spam, about 4-12 months apart, indicating it was continuously being sold. It's remained quiet the last few years, but after my past spam experience with them I've been assiduously avoiding signing up for anything with Microsoft (e.g. all my Win 10 accounts are local accounts).

        Make of that what you will.
    • "I am not shopping at ANY store that has the Microsoft system in it"

      I hate to break the bad news to you mate, but you won't be shopping anywhere then. 99.9% of point of sale front end systems (known as tills to non geeks) are microsoft windows based and have been for decades. Before that it was DOS with the occasional OS/2 based system. The backend could be linux or something else non windows, but tills almost exclusively run Windows.

    • You can still purchase Microsoft Office outright and not use any cloud features. I enjoyed your Haddock-like rant, though.

    • Having experience with Microsoft products. It won't work well anyway. When I tell my PC to do something and it dose the opposite, (just happened this morning with an update I said to delay for an hour the proceeded to shut down all my work immediately for reboot) I know they have no clue about usability. When each window an a PC will have it's own keyboard layout. Because anybody in the world would want to type QWERTY when in notepad, but DVORAK while using the browser?! You can tell they don't use their ow
  • So customer takes two items off the shelf together, scans one, and puts them in their bag. Super difficult to catch.

    Put a RFID tag with a UUID on every package that comes into the store. Sign customers in via various and/or appropriate methods, whether their phone or just an RFID sticker they can place on something else in their wallet. Scan customers aggressively on their way out, perhaps making them walk a circuitous path to enhance scan time and opportunity. Perform inventory scans frequently; since you

    • Sign customers in via various and/or appropriate methods

      So now I have to be validated just to enter the store?

      • by gtall ( 79522 )

        No, you'll just have an RFID implanted in one of the anterior lobes of your posterior. You need not do anything to be validated, it will all be handled for you. Oh, and don't get a suntan back there, it tends to make the RFID go a bit haywire and a red flag pops out just to let you know you have a problem.

      • If it's going to let you just pick up items and leave the store then yes, it does need to know who you are to be able to bill you for the items you took.

    • The customer does not 'scan' anything. There is a camera ( and in some cases a shelf sensor ) that understand who picked up what from where and automagically charge you for that item.

      The only practical way to cheat the system is by picking up a low cost item, picking up a high cost item, and returning the low cost item in place of the high cost item. Even then machine vision would ultimately solve this problem.

      RFID has never worked as a replacement because, as practical matter, when multiple individuals are

    • by mikael ( 484 )

      Still too expensive, even at $0.25 an RFID tag. Given that billions of items are going to be purchased and sold, that price for an RFID tag gets multiplied by a billion.

      • by DogDude ( 805747 )
        That's true. With the retail race to the bottom, margins are slimmer than ever before in history, I'd imagine. $0.25 per item is much too expensive. You'd have to increase sales by quite a lot to see any savings from not having cashiers.
        • by mikael ( 484 )

          Supermarkets in the UK already get their customers to operate as checkout clerks in the supermarkets. Get the trolley to the checkout area, pick out each item one by one, put it through the scanner, and place it on electronic scales which correlates the item barcode with the weight. You only get to process the next item once the current item has been processed successfully. For security, certain items still have to be audited by a member of staff. Razor blades are usually in plastic boxes with a security ta

          • by DogDude ( 805747 )
            Yup. We've got that in the US, too. Luckily, we can still choose to have a cashier do it at every grocery store I've ever been to.
    • So customer takes two items off the shelf together, scans one, and puts them in their bag. Super difficult to catch.

      Put a RFID tag with a UUID on every package that comes into the store. Sign customers in via various and/or appropriate methods, whether their phone or just an RFID sticker they can place on something else in their wallet. Scan customers aggressively on their way out, perhaps making them walk a circuitous path to enhance scan time and opportunity. Perform inventory scans frequently; since you can do them by just walking around, they can actually be done continually.

      I have shopped at a store that has a scanning app, where you scan each barcode and it records the item and price. When I am done I select checkout and it charges my debit card. On the way to, they scan the payment barcode from the app, double check my cart matches the receipt and out I go. It's a lot faster than waiting in line or self checkout.

      One side effect of such tech is it allows vendors to change prices dynamically based on buying trends, for example if you notice more water is sold on hot days or on

  • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Thursday June 14, 2018 @11:39AM (#56783574)

    Cashiers rank among the top jobs in the US by numbers employed. Is Microsoft also working on technology that will eliminate the problems they're planning on creating when they make millions of jobs obsolete? Not to mention the fact that a lot of consumer spending and business revenue depends on millions of people being employable.

    Once again, Greed is doing what Greed does best; doing whatever it takes to create revenue quickly without giving two shits about any long term impact.

    • Cashiers rank among the top jobs in the US by numbers employed.

      It is true that a lot of people are employed as cashiers. This is unfortunate because the job of cashier is not a value added job. It doesn't make the product better, it doesn't improve the shopping experience, and it's a large cost to both the retailer and the customer.

      Is Microsoft also working on technology that will eliminate the problems they're planning on creating when they make millions of jobs obsolete?

      No and nor should they. You're typing this on a computer and you don't see the irony in your argument? Should Microsoft have been subsidizing Smith Corona typewriters because PCs reduced the need for clerical staff? Should Ford have bee

    • Is Microsoft also working on technology that will eliminate the problems they're planning on creating when they make millions of jobs obsolete?

      Would that be like when we made millions of farm jobs obsolete by introducing tractors and combines and such? Or how about the jobs that were rendered obsolete when we replaced sailing ships with steamships? Or when airplanes replaced steamships as the way to cross the Atlantic/Pacific oceans?

    • by labnet ( 457441 )

      There was an interesting Jordan Peterson podcast recently where says the US military has determined if your IQ is below 83, you cannot add any value to the military. This turns out to be 10-15% of the population.
      So while automation is great and all, how are we going to keep dumb people gainfully productive in society. Its a difficult problem.

  • I pay with cash (Score:3, Informative)

    by DogDude ( 805747 ) on Thursday June 14, 2018 @11:48AM (#56783630)
    I pay for things with cash. If a business doesn't take cash, they don't get my business.
    • I pay for things with Canadian Tire money. Let's just say, there's not a lot of places that get my business.

    • I pay with card.I live in Belgium and the Credit Card company can see where you bought it, but not what amd they are not allowed tp use it for marketing. Not even the fact of you bought online or at a store.

      I do not use a store card.

      The CC company is allowed to use it for security so they can deetect fraude and blick your card if your pattern suddenly changes. But no "You bought a lot of porn online, why not buy some tissues, as you seem to be out of them." messages.

    • I pay for things with cash. If a business doesn't take cash, they don't get my business.

      Really? You never write a check? Never use a credit or debit card? You make your house payment in cash? Pay your utilities in cash? You purchased your PC in cash?

      Yeah I don't believe you are telling the truth. If you are then I kind of pity you.

      • by DogDude ( 805747 )
        I pay in cash where ever possible, yes. My bills are paid via my credit union's free bill pay service. Is it really that surprising to you that somebody would value their privacy enough to be slightly inconvenienced?
      • Many utility companies allow you to pay in cash through affiliated stores. Typically pharmacies, corner grocery stores, money transfer places.

        Why not buy a PC in cash, especially used? It's a few-hundred-dollar purchase at most these days -- they've become a commodity item.

        • by sjbe ( 173966 )

          Many utility companies allow you to pay in cash through affiliated stores.

          I'm aware though few people actually do this. Most who do are people who cannot get a proper bank account or credit card.

          Why not buy a PC in cash, especially used?

          Because acquiring and carrying a wad of cash that large is more than a little inconvenient. I cannot remember the last time I walked around with more than about $200 cash on my person. And none of the PCs I would actually buy cost an amount of money where a cash transaction makes much sense.

          It's a few-hundred-dollar purchase at most these days -- they've become a commodity item.

          One only has to walk into an Apple store to disprove that. A cheap PC that is worth half a shit

          • The only thing that walking into a Crapple store proves is the quote about fools and money, and the one about suckers and minutes.

            As far as PCs, I've usually bought second-hand off Craigslist, and $100-150 is my price point. For a decent few-year-old laptop like a Thinkpad X-series at that... the things depreciate like rocks.

    • at the self checkout lanes. You can still pay with cash.
  • Can we work on eliminating shoppers from the stores? They're the real problems.

  • like buying meat and produce by the pound? Or taking stuff out out of place?

     

    • What, you mean people will just go in these stores and start messing things up by picking items and leaving them in other random shelves just to mess things up?

      Let's just hope this doesn't become a thing! #RandomizeAutomatedStores

  • except maybe in the ultra high end where you're paying so you can tell the girl you're dating there's a real chef. Heck, we've already replaced most Sports & Finance writers with algorithms.

    I keep saying this, but we're heading for another industry revolution, and there was 70 years of unemployment, poverty, social strife and wars after the last one that didn't end until new tech caught up with new jobs. It's easy to destroy something, it's harder to create. Jobs are the same way.
  • So J Random Doofus picks up item A then later on decides that item B is better, and so puts item A back in the wrong place. Doubles my shopping time because I have to double-check that what I've picked up is actually what the label on the shelf says it is. If MS can solve this one (maybe by giving JRD a shock at the time) I'll sign up.

  • Didn't RTFA or even RFTS but it's teh MiKKKRO$OFT so therefore bad!
  • ..more tracking, more data-mining of personal information, and since it's inherently 'cashless', more opportunities for data breaches stealing your payment information and identity information. Fuck that, fuck Microsoft, fuck 'cashless', fuck having every aspect of our lives 24/7/365 cradle-to-grave surveilled, logged, tracked, analyzed, scrutinized, and monetized. Get the FUCK out of our lives.
  • Still needs ID checkers!

  • This is an idea as old as RFID tags! Seriously, when RFID first came out, this is what they said it would be used for.
    • This is an idea as old as RFID tags! Seriously, when RFID first came out, this is what they said it would be used for.

      Walmart doesn't want to deploy RFID tags until they can be used for warehouse inventory too. That way they can use the same tracking system for everything. The problem is liquids. An RFID reader, reading a pallet of shampoo doesn't get a positive read on every bottle in the pallet.

  • by jmcwork ( 564008 ) on Thursday June 14, 2018 @01:15PM (#56784286)
    I am not sure I understand how this would be different from the Sam's Club 'Scan and Go' app I used the other day. I scanned each item (who really needs a 2 gallon jar of mayo??) and put it in my cart. When I was done, I told it to pay with my credit card and it generated a upc code and a receipt. The person at the door looked at the receipt, scanned the code and I was gone. No waiting in line. Yes, there is the risk of putting an item in you cart without scanning. I would assume that if you are buying an iPad or other expensive item (that could possibly be hidden) they would do something like 'Hey, let me scan that for you to make sure it comes up with the correct price."
    • I am not sure I understand how this would be different from the Sam's Club 'Scan and Go' app I used the other day. I scanned each item (who really needs a 2 gallon jar of mayo??) and put it in my cart. When I was done, I told it to pay with my credit card and it generated a upc code and a receipt. The person at the door looked at the receipt, scanned the code and I was gone. No waiting in line. Yes, there is the risk of putting an item in you cart without scanning. I would assume that if you are buying an iPad or other expensive item (that could possibly be hidden) they would do something like 'Hey, let me scan that for you to make sure it comes up with the correct price."

      Don't you scan a card and you pick it up after you've paid? That way, small high value items are hard to steal because there are none on the shelf, only a stack of cards showing the item and its barcode. What sucks is you can't scan and go alcohol and have them check your ID on the way out.

      • Blame the stupid American government for this -- pushing states to be serious about drinking age laws. In most civilized countries, drinking age is 18, and a suggestion at that, not a firm rule.
  • I already avoid the Self Checkout Lanes like the Plague that they are.
    Any store that tries this will loose me as even a potential customer.
    No sense in going to a store that will likely be having me stock the shelves as I browse next.
    Frankly, I can easily see Amazon buying out a Goliath like Walmart, and having a fleet of delivery drones, small cars and vans, with minimal store staff, and a discount option of "pick it yourself" for keeping the Brick and Mortar part of the store open to the people that just h

  • They should go ahead and also eliminate the concept of money, finally getting us to a star-trek like society where no one is either hungry or homeless !

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