What do you do when you’re sick of following your mom around at the grocery store, schlepping her grocery cart up and down, aisle after aisle, week after week? You invent a shopping cart — an autonomous, self-driven robotic shopping cart. One that will do the deed for you.
That’s what Ohad Rusnak recently did with his cousin, Omri Elmalech. Together, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology students invented the ultimate shopping cart for the lazy shopper: a small trolley that automatically follows you around a store. We’d say the pair, tight since childhood, have come a long way from tinkering with toy robots and Legos, wouldn’t you?
Their funky, jimmy-rigged robo-cart — which doesn’t have an appropriately geeky name, nor any official name at all yet, it seems — consists of a Frankenstein hodgepodge of tech that Rusnak and Elmalech soldered and strapped together themselves. They also coded the computer vision (Big Brother) algorithm that enables it to track shoppers’ every move.
The cousins’ three-wheeled prototype, topped by a woven oval basket (that we wish were much bigger), visually identifies and tracks individual shoppers using an Arduino circuit board, a 3-D camera and a 3-D Microsoft Kinect Sensor (the kind used with Xbox 360 gaming consoles). Yup, it really knows who you are and slowly, kind of creepily follows you wherever your retail therapy takes you. Convenient, right?
We’d love for this cool concept to catch on. Even if it does, will big name retailers like Target, Wal-Mart and Kohl’s allow autonomous motorized carts like these to freely roam their aisles? Or are they too much of a liability? Are they already developing their own? And would you even want to be seen with one, rolling awkwardly behind you?