Amazon’s Dash Cart is its latest attempt at cashless shopping
It watches customers as they shop to automate trips to the grocery store
Amazon is on a never-ending quest to convert shoppers to a cashless model. It opened its first Go convenience stores in 2018 and followed that with a full-size cashless grocery store earlier this year.
Now, Amazon is taking a different approach to revolutionize brick-and-mortar shopping — a smart cart. The company’s new Dash Cart is tricked out with a series of cameras and sensors that track items a customer adds to it. When they’re done, shoppers can check out by pushing the cart through a special Dash Cart lane.
Whether or not the experiment will pay off remains to be seen. In some ways, it actually seems to go against Amazon’s model of decreasing the need for human employees.
Typically, Amazon automates its physical storefronts by installing thousands of cameras. These observe shoppers and automatically bill them for items they pick up. However, that’s a complex approach that requires a big up-front investment.
For a small convenience store, it isn’t a big deal. In a full-size supermarket, the costs are massive.
Amazon’s new Dash Cart seeks to alleviate some of the burden by putting cameras closer to the customer. To begin, shoppers scan a QR code in the Amazon app with a reader that’s built into the cart itself. This ensures that the right person is getting charged for their items.
Customers can then shop like normal, adding various items to their cart. As they do so, its cameras and weight sensors use computer vision technology to identify the items. After doing so successfully, the Dash Cart beeps. If it turns orange, the cart wasn’t able to identify the item and shoppers have to try again.
Alongside its cameras and sensors, the Dash Cart is outfitted with some other helpful tech. For instance, it has a screen near the handle that allows customers to access their Alexa Shopping List and check things off as they go. It also displays their current total. The Dash Cart even features a coupon scanner that customers can use throughout their shopping trip.
For purchasing items without a barcode, like fresh produce, the screen gives shoppers the ability to input a PLU number. The Dash Cart then confirms the item’s weight and charges the customer accordingly.
Although it sounds great in theory, Amazon’s new Dash Cart might not deliver on everything it promises to be. One of the smart cart’s biggest drawbacks is its capacity.
The Dash Cart is only able to accommodate two grocery bags of food. This means it isn’t good for large “stock up” trips. Instead, customers will only be able to grab a few items when using the cashless tech. The limitation is related to the way that the Dash Cart identifies items in its basket.
On top of this, putting cameras in the customer’s cart instead of around the store somewhat limits Amazon’s attempt at automation. Since the Dash Cart only focuses on what users add to their cart, it isn’t able to monitor the entire store. This likely means that more human employees will be necessary to fix technical errors and monitor inventory.
Regardless, the company plans to give the Dash Cart an in-person debut at its new Woodland Hills grocery store in California. It is planning to open the location later this year. Once that happens, it will quickly become clear whether the Dash Cart is a viable solution to help automate brick-and-mortar shopping.
Originally published at https://www.theburnin.com on July 14, 2020.