Remarkably Dumb Digital Shopping Cart In Beta Testing

February 29, 2012 by Dave Haynes

[youtube id=”16GiO8EEVpE” width=”600″ height=”350″]

Bill Gerba saw and tweeted this, correctly noting So, so dumb.

He saw it on Engadget, which saw in on The Verge, which saw it on Geekwire … so now that we have followed the bread crumb trail, here’s the story:

Whole Foods is testing a motorized, digital shopping cart thing that uses Microsoft’s Kinect to follow users around the store. It identifies a shopper with a loyalty card, scans items as they’re placed inside, marks them off the shopping list, and even checks the shopper out in the end.

Reports GeekWire:

Microsoft showed the very early prototype, being developed for Whole Foods by a third-party developer, Austin-based Chaotic Moon, during an event on the Redmond campus today, hosted by Craig Mundie, the company’s chief research and strategy officer.

The company says the project is literally weeks old, and that was apparent in the demo, which included a couple of false starts where the sensor didn’t precisely the shopper. The technology will need to be ironed out before it’s deployed, lest our shopping trips turn into destruction derbies.

But it’s an interesting application that shows what outside developers can do now that a Kinect software development kit has been released for Windows, expanding the sensor beyond the Xbox 360 game console.

Microsoft says more than 300 companies are working on commercial applications for Kinect on Windows. Other demos today included an application that gave an immersive virtual tour of a new vehicle, and another that let kids interact with a wildlife show.

Digital shopping carts have been touted for years. It is a fairly big challenge, alone, to keep the electronics charged for the screen and scanner, for a full shopping day. Now someone wants to introduce a battery strong enough to roll independently. The scanner only seems to work if items are at the bottom of the cart, which means you better not buy much. How does it scan fresh veggies, a big part of the Whole Foods appeal. Would this thing survive outside in a rainy Seattle parking lot, or in Chicago in a snowstorm?

Does green-conscious Whole Foods “really” want to tell its customers its investing in lithium batteries so you won’t have to endure the vaguely healthy exercise of actually pushing a grocery cart.

On and on.

As Bill says … so, so dumb.

Digital can and has made so many things better. Why people spend any time stuff they know is impractical and (deep-down) stupid is beyond me.

Thumbnail pic from GeekWire


  1. Can it check the state of my prostate?

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