Microsoft Kinect Powering Whole Foods Trolley

  • March 4, 2012
  • Tech
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Microsoft Kinect Powering Whole Foods Trolley

Microsoft’s research department has come up with an innovative way to use their motion sensor device Kinect to expend beyond the home and video games. Indeed, the company apparently started running tests in cooperation with Whole Foods Market to install these devices on trolleys, so that the motion sensor capabilities will detect products as you put them in, then keep track of your grocery shopping list. The result is a fairly weird looking trolley, along with some high tech equipment that serves a purpose that may ultimately be better off done by something else. Let’s see how good the result truly is.

The company ran an event recently at their Redmond headquarters where they were eager to showcase how far the technology had come. It’s not quite ready for mass production yet, and it’s clear that no one would want a trolley that looked like this one did, with a full screen and big sensor device on top of it, but Microsoft still wanted to show what will be possible thanks to their development on Kinect. The result was a trolley that could look at the various things you would throw in it, and detect products. The idea is that as you bring products in, it could keep track of your grocery list, and mark items off on it, so you don’t have to keep track of it yourself. The demonstration itself went pretty well, except at one point where the trolley apparently refused to recognized the host was even there, but as products got added, it started filling up the shopping list, and reminding the host about the food that was still missing.

As to how practical such a setup would be, that’s hard to say. It’s clear that there’s some value to having a computer remind you audibly about products you need to buy, but this all seems like a very expensive and cumbersome solution to a very simple problem. There’s no question that grocery stores will be very reluctant to paying additional money to outfit all of their trolleys with something like that, technology that could break easily or be stolen, even if Microsoft manages to reduce the huge size of this current device. Plus, it’s not like this is the first device attempting to help you keep track of your shopping list. There’s many more cost effective solutions to do that, like a bar code scanner, or using RFC chips. While there’s no doubt that this solution from Microsoft is impressive to see, and shows what’s possible thanks to technology, not everyone is convinced that this is something that’s going to turn into a real product.

The event concluded with talk amongst the attendee on how much fun this would be, but most people suspect that it will be some time before we can start getting trolleys equipped with technology like this, if it ever becomes financially worthwhile to do so.

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