Amazon today introduced the latest smart store technology with the introduction of Amazon Dash Cart, a grocery cart that identifies and then charges you for the items you place in its cart. The cart will first be made available when Amazon Grocery opens in Woodland Hills, Calif., later this year, the retailer said.
Today’s cart is not for your standard grocery store where you stock up. Instead, Amazon explains, the smart cart can handle small to medium grocery runs of 2 bags or less.
It has to do with how technology works to identify items in the shopping cart.
Amazon Dash Cart uses a combination of computer vision and sensor fusion algorithms to identify items in the cart, Amazon explains. Then, when you exit through the Dash Cart lane in the store, sensors automatically identify the cart and your payment is processed using the credit card you registered with your Amazon account.
To start using the shopping cart, you will scan a QR code in the Amazon app with the reader on the shopping cart. You then place your one or two bags in the basket and start shopping. As you add items to the basket, you will have to wait to hear a beep. If the cart turns orange, it couldn’t read the item and you’ll need to try again.
Along with the sensor technology, the cart has a screen at the top that lets customers access their Alexa shopping list and check things off, as well as see their current subtotal. The cart will also come equipped with a coupon scanner where you can apply coupons as you shop.
From the video provided by Amazon (and very few specific details), the cart appeared to require the product barcode to be visible. In one image from the video, for example, the shopper uncovers the barcode with their finger before adding the item to the cart. The video also shows the products with the barcode facing the shopper and the shopping cart screen, while loading.
In another section, the video explains how “add items without barcode”, like producing. In this case, the customer enters the PLU number on the screen and confirms the weight.
Amazon’s website doesn’t detail barcode reading, but says the cart uses “computer vision algorithms” and “sensor fusion.” This seems to imply that the smart cart is the next step beyond Amazon’s existing “Just Walk Out” technology, which is used in its Amazon Go stores. But with “Just Walk Out”, stores are using the vision computer-based via camera-mounted systems alongside shelf sensor technology to identify when products are taken from or returned to store shelves. The Dash Cart, meanwhile, will be tested at a regular grocery store — not an Amazon Go store.
While it’s clear that the cart isn’t just a barcode scanner on wheels, Amazon’s website wasn’t completely transparent about its use of barcode scanning technology.
We also asked Amazon to go into more detail on how their new technology works and were told that the cart “first looks for a barcode to quickly identify the product”.
However, if the barcode is obstructed – for example, by the customer’s hand – then the computer vision algorithms will try to identify the object instead.
Bringing Just Walk Out technology to a grocery store would be extremely difficult compared to an Amazon Go store, which is the size of a convenience store. Grocery stores have more items than the shopping cart should be able to identify and new products are also constantly available.
Amazon announced in March that it would begin selling its cashierless store technology to other retailers. He likely has similar plans for his smart cart once the technology is tested and improved. Amazon declined to talk about its future plans when asked.