Future Supermarket Checkout Scanner Recognizes Images Instead of Barcodes

March 8, 2012

Diginfo.tv has an interesting article on a new scanning technology from Toshiba, where the checkstand scanner uses image recognition to determine products as opposed to scanning a barcode. I think this is  a fantastic development for grocers, but I think their headline is a little hyperbolic in that this signals the end of barcodes.

The video shows a tech demo at a trade show, so they may have been running slowly to show how easily the products are read, but it seemed about as fast as the grocer down the street who doesn’t have a scanner and manually keys in products. And compared to an omnidirectional scanner at a real actual supermarket, this seems remarkably slow.

I’m sure Toshiba is going to tune this technology so it’ll be as fast, if not faster, than standard scanners you encounter at grocery stores & supermarkets, but right now it looks like it’d be a strong complement to a laser scanner, not a replacement. Using a camera instead of a scanner could also be a fantastic tool for self-check systems, where right now customers have to sift through screens of products to find the right jalapeno or onion. But I don’t think an employee trained to use the scanner in the video is going to be faster or more accurate than an employee trained to use a flatbed scanner and keyed entry combination.

So yeah, Toshiba’s technology will be really interesting to see in use, but I doubt it’s going to end barcodes.


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