Robotics

Regi-Robo makes cashiers and baggers redundant

Regi-Robo makes cashiers and b...
Regi-Robo automatically tallies up goods and bags them without a human operator
Regi-Robo automatically tallies up goods and bags them without a human operator
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Regi-Robo uses specially designed smart shopping baskets
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Regi-Robo uses specially designed smart shopping baskets
The key to Regi-Robo is RFID tags attached to the products
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The key to Regi-Robo is RFID tags attached to the products
Regi-Robo automatically tallies up goods and bags them without a human operator
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Regi-Robo automatically tallies up goods and bags them without a human operator
Bagged goods rise from the scanning/bagging bay after payment
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Bagged goods rise from the scanning/bagging bay after payment

Barcodes and laser scanners may have made life easier for store cashiers, but the next evolution in checkout technology could put them out of a job. In Osaka, Japan, a Lawson convenience store, through a partnership with Panasonic, demonstrated a new checkout system that scans groceries, tallies up the bill, and bags the items without human intervention.

They may not be raking in the big bucks, but human staff still cost money and in a tight economy or in countries like Japan with aging populations and shrinking workforces, there's an ever greater pressure to automate jobs that no one would have dreamed of handing over to robots a generation ago. Most stores already rely heavily on bar codes and computers to ring up sales, keep track of inventory, reorder goods, and make sure perishable items are removed from shelves.

Regi-Robo automatically tallies up goods and bags them without a human operator
Regi-Robo automatically tallies up goods and bags them without a human operator

Lawson and Panasonic want to take this trend a step further with Regi-Robo, an automated check-out system that is intended to not only drive down costs, but also make shops more efficient and, hopefully, more enjoyable for the customer.

The key to Regi-Robo is RFID tags, which for the demonstration were attached to every item in the store. Panasonic says that if the system went into general use, the tags would be added at point of manufacture, much as bar codes are now.

As the customer selects their products, they're placed in a special "Smart Basket." At checkout, the basket is placed in a special slot and the bottom of the basket slides open to allow the contents to be lowered into a plastic bag below. The tags are then scanned, and the total bill is added up and presented to the customer on a screen, where they can pay electronically. Once payment is made, the groceries rise out of the hole in the plastic bag, ready to be carried away. Meanwhile, the system updates the store inventory.

Regi-Robo got its public outing at the experimental Lawson Panasonic-Mae store in Osaka from December 12, 2016 to February 20, 2017 as part of a project supported by Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

It's all very efficient, but the system won't chat about the weather while bagging your purchases or offer to carry them out to your car.

The video below shows Regi-Robo in action.

Source: Panasonic

Robotic Checkout System "Regi-robo(TM)" with RFID Tags for Next Generation of Retail

9 comments
Alien
This is a major step forward...but how do we manage with a trolley full of items? I suspect though, that it will need to have the RFID incorporated into product labelling before it can become really viable. Keep up the good work though. It's going to make shopping better - and hopefully some of the savings (checkout operations, security and stock management, etc.) will be passed on to customers.
aki009
Neat. And a reminder for everyone of what will happen if the minimum wages are set too high.
Aross
More jobs for humans lost, more unemployment, more need for welfare. The savings might be passed on to the customers but I doubt it. With all these people out of work there wont be any customers left to pass it on to.
FayaBen
Just need a rfid reading frige in every home that communicates to production so it can be adjusted to what people will want to buy in the comming days.
Commontator
The baskets should integrate with shopping carts. ...and really ought to put the goods into the car, ...which they can find after it parked itself somewhere, ...wherefrom it drives you home. On the other hand, why bother with a store, when you can order (almost) anything online and have it delivered within an hour or two?
BobLoblaw
Yes, Alien, the article points out the tags would be added to products at the factory. And no, it's not a step forward, as this idea has been around for 20yrs and nobody has been foolish enough to buy into it. It's a step toward passively being able to scan you or your home etc. and learn everything about you from what brand of tampons you use to what you're wearing and where you are etc. Wal-Mart has been using RFIDs on some of their products for years now. This isn't new, it's PR to get you to accept what they decided to do to you decades ago. It's just more passive surveillance that government front corporations have been conditioning people to accept and adopt.
sk8dad
Better yet, as you walk into a store, you register your payment method. Then, you simply place items into your cart. If you change your mind, just remove those items. When you are done shopping, simply push your cart out of the store. As you exit, all the items in the cart is paid for automatically. I do wonder, if RFID were widely adopted, if that will contribute to increased packaging and landfill accumulation. On another note, while some may have reservations to this level of checkout automation, one should realize that it is coming regardless. Major retail entities have been increasing their investment on "self-checkout" systems over human cashiers for years in the U.S. Would this displace workers? Of course it will in the same way that robots did for automotive assembly lines, but it may also open up entirely new industries. The world is constantly changing, and one's survival depends on one's ability to adapt.
Bob Flint
Why add an additional tag that can be removed when the original barcodes are already on everything except fresh bread, that I would select and pack carefully along with the eggs...not down a bin that gets forced back up, and uses plastic bags....really!!
SaysMe
I want to use my own canvas bags and we should be able to reuse rfid tags...