Hot on the heels of Amazon’s tech-centered march into grocery retail, Japanese electronics giant Panasonic has developed an automated system for scanning and bagging purchases that eliminates the need for a human cashier.
Self-checkout machines have been in use for years. But Panasonic’s robotic system, which was demonstrated in Osaka on Monday, uses a computerized basket to detect the goods inside and then calculate the price. When the basket is placed into a slot, its base slides away and the contents fall into a waiting bag, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Here’s the robo-checkout in action.
According to Sadanobu Takemasu, chief operating officer of the Lawson convenience store chain, the system “could bring a revolution to the broader retailing industry,” which he told the WSJ suffers from a scarcity of labor.
Panasonic has partnered with Lawson on the project and is piloting the system at a Lawson outlet in Osaka. For the time being, customers must still manually scan their purchases before placing them in their basket. But Panasonic expects each item in the store to have been fitted with an electronic tag by February — and then it’s onto full robot mode.
While potentially making shopping speedier and saving on labor costs, the new checkout raises questions about the increasingly automation of society.
“Our store is also a point of communication for neighbors, where customers can enjoy chatting with clerks,” Lawson’s Takemasu said, adding that he wouldn’t get rid of human staff entirely.