Machine vision sorts produce at self-service checkout

Published on: 2015-02-05

This article at Vision-Systems Design says that:
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Information and Data Processing IITB (Karlsruhe, Germany) have developed a webcam module for self-service scales. "The scales automatically recognize which fruit or vegetables are to be weighed and ask the customer to choose between only those icons that are relevant--such as tomatoes, vine-ripened tomatoes and beefsteak tomatoes," states IITB scientist Sascha Voth. Customers can confirm the correct variety on a touch screen.

But how do the scales know whether the customer has placed a pepper, a tomato, or a kiwi fruit on them? "The goods are registered by a camera integrated in the scales. An image evaluation algorithm compares the image with stored data and thus automatically recognizes which type of fruit this is," says Voth. Even the cloudy plastic bags in which the fruit may be packaged at the counter are no problem for the scales--the image evaluation system recognizes the various types of fruit and vegetable anyway.
Our take:

The technology behind these systems sounds amazing - they can recognize multiple different varieties of banana, tell a nectarine apart from a peach, and recognize bananas as they go from green to yellow to spotted brown.  However, unless the system is really fool-proof, we wonder whether using it to get a price estimate only to find that the price is different at checkout will do more harm than good for consumer sentiment.

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