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Robotic Shopping Cart in Japan

A robotic shopping cart built by researchers here will direct elderly people to products they’re looking for and move them around the supermarket, while keeping them free of other customers. They can be watched by their families from a live feed they send. 

Researchers at Saitama University’s Graduate School of Science and Engineering are planning to have the cart, fitted with a 360-degree camera and a video phone feature, open to the public before the Tokyo Olympics next year.

They are hoping to sell it to the world as a way of helping elderly shoppers. The contact gear helps the shopper to speak to someone at home so that they can stop 3Cs in the middle of a new coronavirus pandemic. Professor Yoshinori Kobayashi, 47, who studied mobile robot technology, is heading the team.

During a demonstration at the supermarket chain Aeon Co.’s Kita-Urawa outlet in Saitama in March, the cart was largely up to standards. But the shoppers lost sight of it when they were stopped from seeing other consumers and store shelves, leading researchers to make changes so that they could recognize the consumer and map positions more specifically.

If users say “tomato” to their smart cart, they’ll be taken to the vegetable section. The cart also lets them know where it’s headed by declaring, “I ‘m going to make a right turn,” and so on. In order to prevent collisions with other shoppers and barriers, the cart is often designed to pause for a moment as it gets close to them and then resumes leading users to their destination.

Pre-installed store map and product statistics, the cart recognizes its current position and the user with a laser distance sensor mounted on its frame and other equipment. 

Elderly people can even use it as a walker to help them get around more quickly. 

The carts cost about 500,000 yen ($4,670) each to be made. They can also be modified to use different languages so that they can be used by non-Japanese shoppers.