The quest for a high-tech “shopping cart of the future” is nothing new, but Whole Foods is planning to test a new spin on the concept, using Microsoft’s Kinect sensor for Windows. The motorized cart identifies a shopper with a loyalty card, follows the shopper around the store, scans items as they’re placed inside, marks them off the shopping list, and even checks the shopper out in the end.

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.

Comments

  • Guest

    This looks great! I’d like for it to be integrated with my Microsoft account, allowing for me to pay for my goods (in Microsoft Points) instantly.  It’s literally murder to get out of their stores in a reasonable time.

    • Rice333

      I don’t think you understand what “literally” means.

  • Avatar Roku

    This is a great option for the disabled and elderly. Are they seriously going to let you leave the store with that to go to your car? And it’s going to have to be built like a tank to survive the abuse that most shopping carts get. How would it handle rain for example?

    The hardware updates for Kinect are going to need to come faster if they want this to really take off. You can see a huge improvement in the tracking of 1st gen and 2nd gen Kinect games, so I guess they’re doing a decent job with updating the software at least.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002925455330 Ariel Atwood

      I just like your name, Avatar Roku. Fantastic :D

  • guest

    Wow! This would be great for busy mommies too! Waiting in line with tired hungry babies is the worst. I think it would ultimately be great for the enviroment bc it may encourage people to buy reusuable bags so they can bag as they go and get the heck outa the store :) haha, i like it!

  • guest

    Wow! This would be great for busy mommies too! Waiting in line with tired hungry babies is the worst. I think it would ultimately be great for the enviroment bc it may encourage people to buy reusuable bags so they can bag as they go and get the heck outa the store :) haha, i like it!

  • http://www.mainstreetchatham.com/ JimmyFal

    Ridiculous, can you even imagine a store full of noise. This is dumb. I love Kinect but this almost seems like a freaking joke. Nice try but, I dont’ think so.

    • Anonymous

      I am so with you on that one. Besides the noise how freakin’ expensive would these things be? Is a supermarket going to pay for each time one of these things breaks (and it will happen a lot – with kids playing with it and cans being thrown in)? The sheer slowness of having to scan each item and then hear that stupid robot voice. BTW where am I going to put my newborn now? Don’t even get me started on those dumb automated checkouts at the the supermarkets now that take longer then the live cashiers. 

      • Notsure

        Warning will be put up – “Customers responsible for breaking Kinect will be forced to buy XBox with the broken Kinect”

      • Michael

        *prototype*

        Then disable the robot voice and slap a hard shell onto the commodotized unit that sits on the card. Imagine a unit like this integrated with Evernote and a Whole Foods account with your credit card. You walk in, walk out, shopping list is updated. It’s only a matter of time.

        And those automated checkouts take longer because of the buyers using them. ;)

    • Anonymous

      To be fair they could give shoppers earphones.

      But still, any crowded store would resemble a huge bumper-car ride at the amusement park.

  • Chet Kittleson

    If you like the idea of eliminating the need for human interaction altogether this sounds great. This is the same problem I have with self checkout on steroids. I think I’ll stick to the traditional human cashiers for my shopping. :)

  • Anonymous

    Dude this makes a whole lot of sense man, I really like the sound of that. WOw.

  • Anonymous

    As long as no customers need to use the bathroom it’s all good!

  • http://www.facebook.com/wmilesn Will Nathan

    Wouldn’t it be better if instead of following you around, you followed the cart around to the location of the items on your list?

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/HORROJ26XFZ7RCNVQV27FI37WU Empress de

    Does it also recognize and/or weigh produce?  Because if not…well, back to the drawing board.  Don’t get me wrong; I would love to never, ever have to wait in a checkout line again.

    • http://en-gb.facebook.com/people/Paul-Richardson/546810085 Paul Richardson

      No need to recognise weight or produce – if everything was tagged with RFID.

  • John Dietz

    While an interesting application of technology, this seems to be to be the opposite of innovation.  Instead of finding a new way to do shopping, we are treated to a somewhat enhanced version of the same shopping experience.  It’s like outfitting a horse with electronics when you should have built a car.  This doesn’t seem like the future of grocery shopping at all.  If I already have a detailed shopping list, wouldn’t I just use something like Amazon Fresh and have it delivered?  Or use robots to retrieve the items (which is already used in some distribution centers)?

  • Anonymous

    I think this falls under the umbrella of Steve Job’s advice on knowing what is not worth doing!

  • Guest

    If it gets the cart out of the middle of the aisle where
    the inconsiderate people shop I’m all for it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gymn-Bow/100000367756540 Gymn Bow

    Appears this may put a damper on my ability to shoplift cottege cheeze! Thanks MSFT!  Wait, Mayge I will just grab the Kinect and toss it in my car!

  • Brian

    Great first shot at this type of innovation. Relax folks. If it is something that seems feasible in stores, it will evolve over time. Do you really think they’d be a store full of carts talking to shoppers? Earbuds anyone? And, as if stores are quiet anyway? Not my local supermarkets. They’re madhouses on the weekends. I love the idea of the scanner built into the cart to tally as you go and allow for immediate ‘checkout’ and walk out of the store. Lots of kinks to work out there too, but as with any invention, it takes many, many tries to get it right. Instead of simply posting here how this is “dumb”, go out do some good and come up with your own inventions to better society.

  • Billg

    You know you could hire a teenager to assist shoppers for less than this thing. And they would bring the cart back to the store without having it stolen, or hit another car.

    • Guest

      I go to Whole Foods specifically to avoid having to see teenagers, Bill. Pay teenagers to do something worthwhile, like to wash my car or to devil my eggs, which keeps them out of my sight.

  • Lstovall

    Would love integration with Windows Live and my Office Web Apps, primarily OneNote. Also, Bluetooth should be considered so that you can hear what the Kinect is saying in a busy store.

  • Tmcjr

    I actaully spoke with a MS person with Connect on this topic 7 months back. why on the cart? Not perfect.  if a store has a mobile app then connect really can provide muscle and connect won’t need to be on a cart at all. do you think the connect will break, smashed, spilled on and or be stolen…. MS almost got it right but not there yet. they haven’t tied things together yet..

    • SunnyDbytheSea

       Kinect

  • ghost

    Really, Whole Foods?  One of the many reasons we shop there is the fact that no loyalty card exists.  No-one tracking my shopping and the obnoxious junk mail that follows.Your employees seem pretty proud of that too-I’ve heard it explained by them many times.   A second reason is the interaction with your employees.  I LIKE having a cashier to talk to, in addition to all of the other nice workers in different areas.  Lastly, its been a stretch for us to keep shopping there in these hard times….instead of spending money on useless technology such as this, have more items on the one-day sales…..or lower the 365 brand prices a bit.  I think you’d have a lot more appreciative customers with lower prices, than a few willing to try out a talking shopping cart. 

  • JJ

    A shopping app with a built in barcode scanner will work just as well – with an isle itinerary optimized to minimize your walking within the store based on your shopping list and coordinates when you begin to shop. The cart following you bit is nice, but not a killer feature. 

  • http://twitter.com/jclaussftw Jason Gerard Clauss

    Whole Foods sucks.  They sold out to Monsatan and started allowing mutant foods.

    • http://twitter.com/jclaussftw Jason Gerard Clauss

       Plus, the last thing we need is the supposedly “healthy” grocery store implementing a feature which only encourages people to be lazy. Stupid stupid stupid.

  • Sazzy2

    This a great idea but will it return it self back to the store or will this be a new worrie with ID theft.  Last thing I need is a hacker getting my info from a shopping cart GREAT of all things.  I could see it now “In todays news all the shopping carts of your local supermarket were stolen and hacked into steeling thousands of bank accounts from local shoppers, and up next the weather so stay tuned” :-D

  • Andy8gc

    If this checks customers out in the end, what happens to the cashiers? Do they lose their jobs as a result? I’m all about new technology, and helping everyday processes become more efficient, but in the grand scheme of things, this is not something shoppers necessarily need.

    • http://www.facebook.com/hikikomorihime Hikikomori Hime

      I’m hoping they keep humans in the equation to watch for theft, and bag groceries for those of us with compromised health. (A big bonus if they can then spare people to help us load our groceries!)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002925455330 Ariel Atwood

    See the problem with this is that if all of the shopping carts had this technology, every sing one of them would be talking and you wouldn’t necessarily be able to hear your own shopping cart. It’s a fantastic idea though!

  • Shopper

    I noticed on the demo that the scanner is inside the shopping cart on the bottom. As your cart fills up can you still scan??? All I can see is shoppers moving their items towards one side to avoid covering the scanner. Shoppers may spend less money if the scanner needs to be kept clear. I think you still need to navigate the shopping cart. This may work in a supermarket that does not have high volumn. Trying using this cart in a store that does high volumn and see how it navigates then.

  • http://www.christopherbudd.com Christopher Budd

    You know, I would much rather have stores build what I call an “in-store GPS” that could take my shopping list and build a route through the store for me and show me where what I’m looking for is.

    I spend so much time looking for things because every store is different in how and where they stock things that this would be a real benefit.

    This sounds neat but gimicky and not really something that’s going to make my life better.

  • http://www.robotas.at/ Dimitrios Prodromou

    i solved this exact topic, as a prototype in my master thesis last year. “RobotaS: Development of a mobile robot for small goods transport”. my system is storing one person and follows her through an environment (also between other people). you can find it here http://www.robotas.at/

  • Chris

    I think this will be annoying just like the self check out! That thing needs to keep up and shut up!

  • Teresasealock

    I guess Whole Foods just doesn’t make enough money; so they need to eliminate cashiers. I like the experience of going thru the check-out line talking to people with jobs and me not having to do my job and someone elses.

  • Granniem

    I would like to place my items right in a bag in the cart and not have to go through bagging… a cart designed to hold bags would complete this experience. Very cool!

  • Nobody

    This is a terrible idea.

  • guest

    We have to be careful with this technology. As it was demonstrated years ago in Austin, shopping carts with this technology can have unexpected consequences

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1e5gF0pbn0
     

  • http://www.facebook.com/hikikomorihime Hikikomori Hime

    Yea, I can get how on the one hand this can seem really stupid to some people… but on the other hand, speaking as someone disabled, I think this is awesome. It’s really hard to navigate a cart AND try to remain upright. I’d rather hobble along on my cane, and have a cart follow along behind me. I hope they work all the kinks out soon, and these start popping up in other stores.

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