DASH - A Smart Shopping Cart
Written by Lucy Black   
Sunday, 03 July 2016

Big advances are being made with AI and Robotics but so far it hasn't had much impact on our everyday lives. What we really want is help with is routine tasks, so a retail shopping cart that will locate and transport the items you want to buy in the supermarket and check them out for you sounds promising.

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DASH comes from Five Elements Robotics, a company which is currently concentrating on shopping solutions. Its first robot, Budgee can best be described as plastic box on wheels with a "head" that provides a friendly personality, speaking through a smartphone app. Intended for personal ownership, it can follow you about carrying a load for you or be driven by smartphone to take it to another location. It can travel over sidewalks and streets and negotiate handicap ramps.

DASH isn't a personal robot however. The audience for this shopping cart with a brain is retail stores and a prototype is being evaluated by Walmart.

According to Five Elements Robotics, 90% of shoppers leave a store empty handed when they can't get the help they need, whereas they are 93% more likely to buy when they do. At the same time 34% of shoppers believe real time information is better than sales associates. So providing customers with robotic shopping carts that know the location of every product and can map out the most effective route through a store could be a solution that stores might find cost effective.

The key features offered by DASH are that customers can transfer shopping lists from their phone or use the cart display's search and find interface to create a shopping list. DASH will then guide the shopper around the store for them to place selected items into the cart. Items are automatically scanned as they are placed in it and there's no waiting in line to pay. Checkout is also automatic with payment using credit card, Apply Pay or Google Wallet.

After purchase the cart follows the customer to their car and then docks itself automatically.

Another feature for the retailer is that DASH supports targeted advertising based on customer's buying habits, data which it gathers as they shop - something that has proved to be very effective for online shopping.

This video demos a prototype of DASH and we see all these features. What we don't see is the typical environment of a supermarket with lots of obstacles, including people, making it difficult to follow a prescribed route. Also, like most things robotic, the cart moves at a very sedate pace. So while you might save time waiting in line to pay, you might think that rather than follow around at a snail's pace you could just overtake the cart and get to a remote corner in a fraction of the time. However, as an increasing proportion of store customers get older and slower, and hopefully more patient, this might not be a problem.

 

 

So will DASH compete with online shopping and entice more customers into shops? Perhaps Walmart will have an answer to this question before it goes into production next year. 

More Information

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 03 July 2016 )