Toshiba’s supermarket object scanner might replace barcodes

Toshiba Object Scanner
Toshiba Tec, Object Recognition Scanner

A new supermarket scanner developed by Toshiba Tec may make conventional barcodes in supermarkets obsolete. Using object recognition the scanner instantly recognizes the merchandise no matter if it’s fresh produce or packaged goods, by identifying it directly via a camera. The technology behind it, is being developed by Toshiba and it utilizes pattern recognition that let’s the Object Recognition Scanner differentiate the difference between merchandise and other objects and discarding the latter as noise. This allows the scanner to operate at high speeds, and also identify the object if even if it’s not being held completely still during the process.

At most supermarkets a laser scanner is commonly used to recognize barcodes, but with fresh produce like vegetables and fruit this can sometimes lead to holdups as the cashier tries to identify item. This issue is becoming more common as it’s currently a popular trend to stock the supermarket with more exotic fruits and vegetables. Even in the cases where if the cashier knows what the item is, they still needs to type in the price manually, or scan a barcode from a predefined list since fresh produce commonly are not marked with a barcode. Adding to the hassle this only works if the fresh produce is added to the system correctly.

As the Object Recognition Scanner instantly recognizes the merchandise itself, be it fresh produce or packaged goods by identifying it directly via a camera, this type of holdups while shopping might be a thing of the past. It woulds make life easier both for the customer and most importantly the cashier as it speeds up the whole checkout process.

“Getting the scanner to learn items in a store isn’t practical, so we’ll ship it with a database of agricultural produce and other items as needed. It takes a year for all vegetables to appear in their seasons, so for a machine to read them, we have to create a database. So that anyone can use the scanner without needing to practice, it has to be able to read items consistently, whether they’re touching it, far away from it, or moving. Our main task in development from now on is tuning the scanner so it can do that”, said Keiichi Hasegawa at Toshiba Tec.

The scanner that utilizes pattern recognition technology developed by Toshiba Tec allows it to even distinguish between different types of fruit, from the same family by recognizing subtle differences in pattern and coloration. This in combination with general object recognition abilities, makes it possible for the scanner to determine the item type at a very fast pace, and makes the whole shopping experience more efficient. It also and reduces possible misunderstandings and stress for the cashier, and the customer.