Whole Foods Testing New Smart Cart that Follows Customers Around the Store

Imagine heading over to your local grocery store to go shopping, but instead of pushing your cart around, it follows you. And not only that, it keeps track of the stuff you put in the cart and totals it up for you so that you don’t have to go through the checkout line when you’re done. Well, that’s exactly what Whole Foods is working on as can be seen in the video of their demo product. Popular Science says that the demo product, being still in its infancy looks truly promising, and GeekWire says it’s interesting and might just lead to a real change in the way customers shop in the near future.

The project is actually being run by Microsoft; the recognition hardware and software utilize the Kinect gaming system. But what’s not readily apparent is the software that runs under the whole application which can really help shoppers get through their shopping experience. In the demo for example, when the customer puts in a certain brand of spaghetti noodles, the system calmly reminds him that he’s not supposed to be eating products with gluten in it and suggests he choose a gluten free brand. This little display showcases what could be a virtual ground shift in the buying and selling of food, says GeekWire. Not only will such a system be able to keep track of what you’re supposed to be eating, or not, it could keep track of what is already at home in the fridge and in the cupboards, thus reminding you to buy something that has run out. PopSci, suggests another feature could be where a shopper decides on the spur of the minute he or she wants to make a certain meal for dinner. He could use his Smartphone to choose a recipe off the Internet, download it to the cart, and then have the cart add whatever is needed to the grocery list.

Another interesting aspect of the automated shopping cart is the fact that it follows the shopper around, rather than vice-versa, surely an algorithm could be added to the system that would map out the most logical progression through the store, making the time spent shorter. In such a scenario, wouldn’t it make more sense for the shopper to follow the cart? And if that happens, why does the shopper need to be there at all, couldn’t a customer just phone ahead to the store, get a cart assigned, download a shopping list have it amended, and then fill it up while the customer is driving over, then all he or she would have to do is load it into the car and take it or, or better yet, simply have it delivered.

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