If conversations with your smart phone have begun to underwhelm you, perhaps a talking grocery cart may excite you. Called "Smarter Cart," early prototypes are being developed with Microsoft's Kinect sensors for Whole Foods Market.
In a video demonstration on GeekWire, Smarter Cart shows its ability to help 21st century shoppers purchase every item on their grocery list in a Jetson's-esque fashion. Just weeks old, the program uses a Windows 8 tablet, UPC barcode scanner and RFID. Some of the features of the cart include a customer upload option for their shopping list, being directed to the aisles and sections where products on the list are located, and the cart's sensor is even designed to "follow" the customer it has been assigned to. Smarter Cart will also alert customers when they grab an item off the shelf that varies from what's on their list (the demo shows an alert when gluten-free pasta on the shopper's list is not scanned but regular pasta is), and it will speed customers out of the store by handling the purchases and checkout all within the digital cart. Customers paying through the cart need only visit a "VIP" check-out if they require bagging of their groceries.
With lots of kinks still needing to be worked out (there are multiple hiccups during the video demo), the program would essentially serve as a loyalty card program (tracking all of your purchases), self-check out kiosk and personal shopper. The demonstrator (Austin-based developers Chaotic Moon) even noted that the cart's ability to stick to the customers' shopping lists would potentially cut down on consumer impulse buys and over-spending—a boon certainly to charm victims of "Whole Paycheck's" pricey and irresistible offerings—but perhaps not the best side-effect profitwise for Whole Foods.
Besides the inevitable malfunctioning technology glitches on par with those 'express' self-checkouts that never seem to flow as fast as hoped, it's often so loud in Whole Foods (or any supermarket for that matter) that it might be quite a challenge to hear the cart speaking to you. But on the plus side, at least we can now finally ask the carts why they always have one wheel that doesn't seem to work.
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