Shop-bot (via Carnegie Mellon University)
Enter any store, shoppers usually hear some indifferent store employee ask, ‘can I help you find anything?’ Not so when it comes to being helped at Carnegie Mellon University’s book store where a robot tirelessly helps shoppers find products. Designed by researchers from CMU’s Intel Science and Technology Center in Embedded Computing, the robot (known as Andyvision) is used as an inventory management tool that is able to keep track of products by looking for bar-codes, text and object shapes, color and sizes.
In order to get the job done, Andyvision is outfitted with a Microsoft Kinect imaging system in conjunction with a 2D and 3D image database and a basic floor map that it uses to identify products and determine type, quantity, sizes and isle placement of products. Andyvision rolls through the isles using a three-wheeled platform and collects the information where it is then sent instantaneously to store supervisors who are equipped with an iPad that uses the Andyvision app to correlate all the information. The product information and location is also sent to a large-screened kiosk that provides shoppers with any and all information related to their purchases.
Simply walk in, use the kiosk to find your products location, price (if available) and even watch/read media on product demonstration. Andyvision is able to differentiate between objects using a specialized machine-learning algorithm (unknown) so it can determine the stores said products and can even alert management if it finds an item in the wrong aisle which potentially saves the business money. The team states that Andyvision has the potential to beat out wireless RFID tags as an efficient way of tracking product inventory as some stores use metal shelving that tends to interfere with the RFID’s signal.
Testing at CMU’s bookstore has been going since mid-May (2012) and will go on to further testing at multiple stores next year. Not to mention that the technology Andyvision uses could be implemented into camera’s that could be placed on each isle of the store for even more efficiency, and after all, isn’t that what product inventorying is all about?