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Smart Self-Service Scales

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the ready-for-my-closeup-mr.-demille dept.

Software 279

Roland Piquepaille writes "German researchers have developed intelligent self-service scales for supermarkets, able to recognize fruit or vegetables placed on them (photo). The scales automatically recognize the item being weighed and ask the customer to choose between only those icons that are relevant, such as various kinds of tomatoes. The scales are equipped with a camera and an image evaluation algorithm that compares the image of the item on the scale with images stored in its database. Store managers can add items to the database. The scales are now being tested in about 300 supermarkets across Europe."

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279 comments

From me (1, Insightful)

niceone (992278) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642707)

It would be more useful the other way round: if I told it they were tomatoes at it could figure out exactly what type they were.

Re:From me (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24643017)

If it could figure out the type op the tomatoes, it should also be able to recognize the things as tomatoes...

Re:From me (1)

Narpak (961733) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643283)

So basically digital scales with a small computer screen displaying price, weight and information about the product would satisfy.

Roland Piquepaille (-1, Offtopic)

suso (153703) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643151)

Look kids, its Roland Piquepaille!

Re:From me (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24643259)

My friend used to buy only onions. Coca-Cola onions, chicken onions, etc. Instead scanning the barcode he used to put them as loose items. The cheapest ones were onions. So he always had lots of receipts for several kinds of onions. Funny, illegal but saved him quite a lot of cash.

No he'll need to behave like proper citizen...

Too bad.. (2, Interesting)

matt4077 (581118) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642711)

I quite enjoyed the apparent abolition of self-service scales in favor of weighing fruits at checkout. Let's hope they don't make a comeback.

Re:Too bad.. (3, Insightful)

aproposofwhat (1019098) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643049)

But given the level of knowledge of the average checkout person, this might be more useful at the tills - having to explain to the staff what 'fennel' or 'parsnip' (I kid you not - it actually happens) is can get kind of frustrating after a while.

I can see this technology helping the checkout staff - of course, staff training might help as well (looking at you, Tesco...)

Re:Too bad.. (1)

ShadowBlasko (597519) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643091)

No kidding!

"No, that's endive... this is parsley, and that is cilantro."

Could be worse. I cant count the number of times I have bought romaine for the price of iceberg.

 

Re:Too bad.. (2, Funny)

Swizec (978239) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643135)

How the hell can someone not differ between a salad and a spice? I'm a sworn meat eater and even I can tell the difference!

Re:Too bad.. (3, Interesting)

ShadowBlasko (597519) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643273)

Fresh Cilantro or Curly Parsley look somewhat similar, and are often thrown in the same bin in the produce department.

You'll sure as hell notice the difference when cooking though!

Re:Too bad.. (4, Insightful)

Mesa MIke (1193721) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643097)

Around here, the cashiers don't have to know what it is. Just throw it on the scale and type in the PLU code that's on the sticker.

I've envisioned something like a Tricorder (1)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643125)

We have so many plants out there that common people just call them weeds because it'd be too hard to learn names for everything. If you had a hand held device that told you what type of plant you're looking at, you could have names for everything. There is a lot of potential for things like this.

Re:I've envisioned something like a Tricorder (1)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643161)

I"m sure there is enough DNA in there for a sample to be taken without decreasing the weight by too much :)

That should give just about enough information to label the species.

Re:I've envisioned something like a Tricorder (2, Insightful)

baldass_newbie (136609) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643279)

If you had a hand held device that told you what type of plant you're looking at, you could have names for everything.

The problem is that no such device exists not because we can't build the device but because there is such a paucity of taxonomists and so many varieties of plant life that we don't really have a bead on how much is out there. If you can't build a database, having an interface for it is useless. Data first.

Re:Too bad.. (1)

catwh0re (540371) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643243)

It's because McDonalds doesn't sell fennel or parsnip.. meanwhile after looking at the image, the recognition might not be much more than comparing the average hue against the known blue weighing platform..

Re:Too bad.. (2, Insightful)

smchris (464899) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643269)

Yeah. Daikon in my case. Isn't that just an indication these people _won't_ be retrained as rocket scientists? I hate auto-check-outs and never use them. More work for me, I assume more profit for the supermarket instead of lower prices, and I get to pay for somebody's unemployment/retraining. And, to be honest, you go back to the same place every week, there is the sociological angle as some of them become "familiar strangers". Why do I want to crap on them?

Nonetheless, "reprogramable" object recognition simple enough for a supermarket manager to use is a good hack.

Re:Too bad.. (5, Interesting)

sirambrose (919153) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643233)

My grocery store has self service scales and I really love them. They are meant to be used with the portable self checkout scanners. The scanners allow me to scan and bag my groceries as I shop. When I leave, I pay at a small kiosk by the door. I don't have to wait in line even if I shop when the store is very busy. I wish this sort of system was more common.

Oblig. (2, Funny)

elguillelmo (1242866) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642717)

I for one welcome our new intelligent self-service weighing overlords

I for one... (-1, Redundant)

PJCRP (1314653) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642719)

Welcome our new, intelligent, self-service checkout scale overlords...

Twice the time, twice the frustration (-1, Flamebait)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642723)

I understand that people want to avoid long lines at the grocery store. They all pile into the self-serve line because they can of course check out their own groceries faster than some retarded minimum-wage monkey girl and her patchouli-scented pet bagboy can.

It's a little like wanting to drive your own car instead of taking the bus or train. The feeling that you are in control makes you feel like you can move faster, but the fact of the matter is that you're simply clogging up the road with your lousy driving skills and 4 ton 2mpg piece of American shit SUV. You make yourself and everyone else slower just by being on the road.

I haven't been to Germany, but I've been to Austria and found that, aside from grocery stores closing at 3:30 in the afternoon, that you had to weigh and tag your own fruits. The retarded minimum-wage monkey girl just stared at me like I was from Mars when I passed her a bunch of bananas with no price sticker on it. Then she ate the fucking things.

So anyway, the experience of doing it yourself is highly overrated. I think Arsenio Hall said it best, "Oh give me the dick, Eddie!" But he also said something like the "wiping your own butt is overrated" or something in that movie about African dudes who came to Manhattan to work at McDonalds.

Re:Twice the time, twice the frustration (-1, Troll)

skiddie (773482) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642769)

If you're not an idiot American who doesn't know to look for scales in the veg. department, the whole process does move a lot faster at the checkout when labels are printed in advance-- whether it's the self-service checkout or the staffed one.

Usually stores do have the facility for the check-out person to enter the code and weigh the fruit themselves at the checkout, but as they only do this when tourists come to town (or the OAPs who forget) they don't remember the codes off the top of their heads and have to spend a while looking them up.

I really like the places in France (usually) that have a guy (person) in the fruit and veg section doing the weighing for you-- he's fast, he's accurate, and thus everything moves more quickly.

Re:Twice the time, twice the frustration (1)

Swizec (978239) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642835)

In Slovenia we have those guys in all the large supermarkest, especially during "rushhour" when there's up to five and each has their own scale. Really makes the whole process easier on everyone, but I bet none of those weighers love their job ... who cares though, they're our robots until we can figure out a way to properly replace them with actual robots.

Re:Twice the time, twice the frustration (2, Insightful)

houghi (78078) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642933)

the whole process does move a lot faster at the checkout when labels are printed in advance

And that is the whole point. That way they can use less staff there. The process for the customer as a whole takes more time. Often I need to wait for the scale to be free then I need to look for where the selection is. So for the customer it take more time, but the store saves.

Also I have used supermarkets where you do NOT put a sticker on it. The person at the checkout has a scale in the same place where the scanner is and enters the PLU. This is as fast as scanning, while not having the need to scan them myself. (I can still check if I want to)

As for people doing the packaging. I have seen it and it takes me again much more time. I do not care what time I spend at the checkout. I care about the time I spend for the whole experience.

To compare it: I am not interested if you have the fastest computer in the world that does a process 2 seconds faster if I as a user lose 5 seconds by needing more time to enter the data.

And then there is the self-checkout. The only advantage I see is not so much the speed. It is that they can use one person instead of 4 to man them. The same with the scanners you walk around with yourself.

OK, the last two might indeed save me about 5 minutes. It will also give me the not so nice feeling that just put some people out of a job, so I can have 5 minutes more to waste on /.

So I now take my time whenever I go shopping. If somebody runs to get in front of me, I let them. I do NOT use the self-checkout lanes, even if there is nobody there and I do have the technical knowledge.

To not use the scanners you can use is also because I do not use a customer card. They can not link my stuff I buy to the way I pay. The privacy laws here do not allow it.

Re:Twice the time, twice the frustration (1)

suso (153703) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643045)

And that is the whole point. That way they can use less staff there. The process for the customer as a whole takes more time.

Actually, I don't think that is what the goal is for the retailer. They've already been able to cut staff using the self-scan systems. I think for the retailer the goal is better accuracy. And not just to prevent theft, its probably also to help order replacements for the right item. I know Wal-Mart at least has a Point Of Sale system in place that automatically reorders whatever is bought. And that was 10 years ago. They probably have the same thing at supermarkets too.

It might not always be the customer trying to cheat the store either, for instance, sometimes I'll buy a tomato and I don't know exactly what type of tomato it is because I forgot to look at the sign over them.

Re:Twice the time, twice the frustration (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643145)

The problem here as I see it, is unfortunately this:

in the life of being an engineer, anytime you automate something, people lose the ability to do their current job because you can automate it. Mean you're stuck in one hell of a conundrum if people can figure out that you engineered something that caused them to be outdated/lose their job.

Of course the upside is that in a good corporation those same people will be able to do something else beneficial within the company. However for companies such as walmart and others that dont' value emplyoees at all I'm sure they will just let the unneeded people go in lieu of new training.

Re:Twice the time, twice the frustration (3, Interesting)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643025)

Usually stores do have the facility for the check-out person to enter the code and weigh the fruit themselves at the checkout, but as they only do this when tourists come to town (or the OAPs who forget) they don't remember the codes off the top of their heads and have to spend a while looking them up.

In Australia, it is standard for the "checkout chick" to weigh fruit & veg (or anything else) as part of of the checkout process. The scales are built into the bench/barcode scanner and it takes maybe a second longer than a typical barcode scan.

(Which resulted in a bit of minor confusion and embarrassment the first time I visited a grocery store in Switzerland after we moved here.)

Having seen both systems in action, I'm in favour of having it done at the checkout. It doesn't add any meaningful amount of time, is more convenient for the customer and removes the ability for dishonest people to game the system by deliberately using an incorrect label on their goods.

Re:Twice the time, twice the frustration (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24643113)

Having experienced both, I totally agree.

As you mention, weighing stuff yourself means that you can weigh it, get your label, and then add another tomato (or whatever). (Not that I've ever done that, but the possibilities... What was it that Bruce fella said about shoplifting and security?)

When I first moved to Swiss land I used to forget to weigh stuff and then (not speaking any of the three main languages) had to be embarrassed as I went and weighed whatever it was (holding up everyone behind me).

Re:Twice the time, twice the frustration (3, Informative)

pimpimpim (811140) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643157)

Depends on the store. In germany they often do it at checkout, also probably at aldi in switzerland. At one particularly annoying store in germany (edeka), you have to type in a 3-digit number at the scale. So you spend a lot of time looking for the place where you got your fruit or vegetable, remembering the number, going back.

These "smart" scales have been around for more than a year now at some Real,- stores, and if they are supposed to intelligently learn, they are apparently still not doing a very good job. Still, anything beats the number system.

Re:Twice the time, twice the frustration (2, Funny)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643171)

that's definitely not 'redundant'.

Not shown in picture (4, Interesting)

frisket (149522) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642729)

Except that the linked picture shows strawberries on the scales, but the screen shows a choice of all kinds of other fruit and veg, not different kinds of strawberry.

Re:Not shown in picture (1)

pimpimpim (811140) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643217)

That is because at that store the strawberries are sold only in 500g packages, and are not at all in the database. There are two solutions to this: 1. enter the 500g strawberries in the database put output on the screen that these things need not be weighed. 2. Have a PR-department that has not only a sense of aesthetics (strawberries look good on pictures), but also have a clue about what they are doing. Why would you put a picture of your new machine behaving faultily in a press release!!!!

Just waaaaay too lazy! (1, Insightful)

forgoil (104808) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642745)

This is just plain silly and useless. If you fail to see why, I am sad for you. Cool software/hardware has its place, but this will just cost consumers more for no gain whatsoever.
 

Re:Just waaaaay too lazy! (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642793)

I guess it falls in the "because we can" category. Kind of like voice recognition for phone services.

Re:Just waaaaay too lazy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24642823)

There are two sides to this argument.

Your side: Less "work" for the customer.

The other side: Less work for the checkout person.

I personally like the idea of less work for a checkout person, why? Because the less that person needs to think/work, the quicker I get out of the store again! I dislike waiting in long queues and if customers before me have bags of various fruits & vegitables that are not already priced, I need to wait longer before I can pay and leave the store. I don't mind doing a little work, if it means I'm outta there quicker.

If I wanted to hang around and be social I'd go to the local pub, not the supermarket!

Re:Just waaaaay too lazy! (1)

jimallison86 (1156175) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642935)

I disagree, I don't believe it makes things any quicker, in fact it slows things down.

The local supermarkets have got entirely self service checkouts, which are almost always slower than going to the cashier for two reasons.

1. Supermarkets don't trust you, all your food gets weighed after scanning which takes much longer than it should.

2. Cashiers have been trained to do their job, and have had hours doing it, so they should be able to do it quicker than you can

Re:Just waaaaay too lazy! (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642971)

Maybe I could open a shop where every product has approximately the same cost per unit mass, then just charge customers by the kilo.

Re:Just waaaaay too lazy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24643175)

Considering you seem to be Dutch, HEMA ring a bell, it used to sell all products for one price (had to give it up later on as it just was not doable)

Re:Just waaaaay too lazy! (1)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643187)

injecting mercury into oranges has been tried before but it does not have the desired effect.

Re:Just waaaaay too lazy! (2, Informative)

legirons (809082) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643265)

Maybe I could open a shop where every product has approximately the same cost per unit mass, then just charge customers by the kilo.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pound_store [wikipedia.org]

Re:Just waaaaay too lazy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24643245)

> 1. Supermarkets don't trust you, all your food gets weighed after scanning which takes much longer than it should.
Here in Switzerland they do trust the customer. In the 7 years that I've been living here, NOTHING has ever been re-weighed!

> 2. Cashiers have been trained to do their job, and have had hours doing it, so they should be able to do it quicker than you can
That is exactly the point of the automated weighing machines. Just place the fruit on the scales, add the price sticker to the product, done...

Here in Switzerland (and a lot of other European countries) this technology would be great! I don't know which country you're from, but if your supermarkets don't trust it's customers, then you've to greater issue than which technologies to or not to use...

Re:Just waaaaay too lazy! (2, Interesting)

houghi (78078) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642973)

Because the less that person needs to think/work, the quicker I get out of the store again!

Untrue. They will not reduce the wait time. They will reduce the staff. So instead of 10 people doing checkout, they will have only 8.
It will indeed reduce your time at the checkout, but it will not decrease and perhaps even increase your total shopping experience.

Stores want you as long as possible in their store. It will make you buy more. If you then have a perceived time gain (not a real one) that is even better.

Obviously the time spend must not be irritating, otherwise it is counterproductive. So they know how long it takers before people will start to get irritated and have moved your time with the girl to a minimum, as people think that time is the most 'wasted' while not decreasing the overal time.

For some it might take less time for others it might take more time overall. You can be sure that the profit is calculated. If the store would not gain, it would not happen.

Re:Just waaaaay too lazy! (1)

drspliff (652992) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643071)

I do think there's a middle point that's beneficial for all when enough self service checkouts are available. When I do my shopping at least half of the people there only have a single basket of stuff, yet have to queue up with at the same checkouts as people with large trolleys.

They will reduce wait time because self service checkouts are smaller and more compact, fitting 4 or 6 in the same area as two normal checkouts, meaning that while you may have to spend an additional 30 seconds fiddling with getting it working you would've avoided waiting 5 minutes behind a huge trolley load of stuff because of the increased throughput.

Or to put it in a way /. may understand more, it's simple QOS with prioritization of smaller packets, albeit applied to humans.

Re:Just waaaaay too lazy! (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643281)

When I do my shopping at least half of the people there only have a single basket of stuff, yet have to queue up with at the same checkouts as people with large trolleys.

They solved that here by having a 'basket only' checkout which replaces basically the 'ten items or less' one.

They will reduce wait time

indeed, but only at the moment you are at the checkout. The time you waste by weighing your stuff yourself needs also to be calculated. It is not so much the time one person spends at the checkout, but the time ALL the people spend in the store AND the amount of people they need at the till, without making the average queue time longer.
They will remove staff from the checkout of the lines become too short.

Re:Just waaaaay too lazy! (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642829)

I don't know. I think it depends on the implementation. UPC codes are okay and were a good leap forward but it seems to have been stationary since then, except for self-checkout lanes which have been a boon if you buy a small amount of items.

It would think the next leap forward if just RFIDing everything and once the cart gets pushed through those narrow checkout aisles, it would total up everything within seconds and the few items that can't due to weight (would notify the cashier). It's probably doable today, but to get all the manufacturers on board as well as supermarkets adopting it.

Re:Just waaaaay too lazy! (1)

cnettel (836611) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642837)

It is useful if you otherwise need to navigate through several steps of a touch menu, or alternatively woodpeck over a large table where muscle precision will be needed every time to hit the very right button.

I really hate self service scales.. (5, Insightful)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642749)

Which is better for me as a customer, having someone in checkout that just grabs my tomatoes and enters the price, bags them, or, a stupid robot that makes me do everything. This technology doesn't benefit me at all, it benefits the store. I refuse to use it.

Re:I really hate self service scales.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24642785)

I concur. And if you screw up then you are liable for the mistake (or worse, you may be charged with shoplifting). If the store screws up then it is their own damn fault.

Re:I really hate self service scales.. (3, Insightful)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642863)

Stores that do this, too, just don't understand that the whole reason people do retail these days is because of the people. A supermarket is a social occasion, and, actually talking to a checkout person for 5 seconds is, well, a human experience. I was loyal to my Wawa (a convenience store) for the longest time largely because the person who worked there took 2 seconds to throw in a sausage egg and cheese into the oven for my wife when they had run out of the ones they'd already made. You can't get that kind of flexibility out of a robot.

Re:I really hate self service scales.. (4, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642937)

TO you it may be a social occasion. For me, its a once weekly annoyance. I want to get in and out as fast as possible, and get on with my life. Anything that shaves time off is appreciated, and these sound like they'd be great when combined with self-checkout lines.

Re:I really hate self service scales.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24643051)

Except, is it really quicker to scan, check and bag everything yourself, when the alternative is having it done by somebody who does it all day, every day?

I'd do it if they paid me. (1)

xzvf (924443) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642789)

We should get a discount for doing all the work and saving them a salary or two. Of course we pump our own gas now and it is just a matter of time until they turn it around and start charging a premium to scan and bag.

Self service discount (2, Funny)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643103)

Self service discount? Over here we call it shoplifting :).

Re:I really hate self service scales.. (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642959)

Exactly. The only way you'll get me to do the job of the cashier is to give me a small discount on my purchase. I'm saving the store money by using the self-service checkout (which hardly ever works properly), so there needs to be some benefit to me to use it. And also it's rarely quicker than the regular line (person in front of you wants to use a coupon, or the item doesn't ring up at the price marked on the shelf, etc).

Re:I really hate self service scales.. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24643013)

Not only this, but (I've used them - they are deployed often by the Real grocery stores) they are horrible. They often don't even recognise things of the right COLOUR, so it's faster to do it yourself - but German is the land of NO CUSTOMER SERVICE so you need to weigh them yourself anyways (which you always needed to - the NEW thing is just the colour sensing), bag everything yourself as some hag crams it forward as fast as she can, etc etc...

And don't get me started on their Windows XP Professional based stick-20-serial-devices-onto-a-plain-PC-in-a-box-and-call-it-"embedded"
"self-service" cashiers. I used them as they're faster than waiting in line, but they *ARE SLOWER* than an actual cashier and don't have half the functions (Have three bread rolls? Have fun scanning each one individually and waiting for the woman at the counter to manually OK that you've put them in your bag as the weight scale won't register as them being added).

Re:I really hate self service scales.. (1)

Mesa MIke (1193721) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643075)

> Which is better for me as a customer ...

Wait a minute.
You've made a treacherous assumption.

Re:I really hate self service scales.. (1)

ricegf (1059658) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643093)

The benefit for me is in time - self-checkout lanes are always open and usually available, while the few full-service lanes open usually have a 2-4 person queue.

Perhaps that's thanks to your unwillingness to use self-checkout, come to think of it. Thanks! :-)

Re:I really hate self service scales.. (2, Informative)

Corbets (169101) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643133)

here in Switzerland, self service produce weighin is everywhere. People accept without comment, and indeed seem to have nothing against it.

I suspect these devices will see much broader deployment in Europe than the US.

Re:I really hate self service scales.. (1)

legirons (809082) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643211)

In the UK it's occasionally seen (although you can't use them if you're buying beer since the machine can't verify age)

Re:I really hate self service scales.. (1)

gaggle (206502) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643137)

That's cool. All the more tomatoes for me. Refuse all you want in the meantime.

I have plenty principles I adhere to, but this is not a slippery slope into a government-controlled fascistic future. It is you weighing your own goddamn tomatoes because the checkout lady wastes a ton of time doing that for you, and this technology tries to make that burden easier for you.

I suggest you shop somewhere more expensive if you want them to do the weighing, or make your own store that caters to your market segment if you feel it's that important an issue.

just curious (1)

joeava (1147727) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642763)

where is the camera?

Re:just curious (1)

tsadi (576706) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642813)

in the photo, there's a tube protruding behind the monitor (behind the "Mettler Toledo" brand/logo) - near the end of the tube is most likely where the camera is, looking down at the fruits being weighed.

Re:just curious (1)

GigaHurtsMyRobot (1143329) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642821)

and how does it see through the bags (which reflect light quite well) ? lame and pointless tech! it will only raise prices due to purchasing it.

A great idea but bound to be executed badly (5, Insightful)

jimicus (737525) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642825)

I don't know how widespread these are outside the UK, but ever used one of the self-service checkouts that are appearing? Scan item, bag it, scan next item etc...

Great idea. Except that the whole point is to save time, and these things were clearly never tested by someone in a hurry because it's trivially easy to scan and bag faster than the checkout can keep up. Well, it would be except the damn thing refuses to scan item 2 until item 1 has been bagged and it takes forever to register that item 1 has been bagged.

They're only faster if the supermarket is full of technophobic customers and the checkouts have a queue going out the door.

Re:A great idea but bound to be executed badly (4, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642875)

I tried the self scan in a Delhaize in Belgium ... when you go to pay the girl takes everything out of the bag and scans it again. I don't quite see how doing something twice works out faster.

Re:A great idea but bound to be executed badly (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642981)

I tried the self scan in a Delhaize in Belgium ... when you go to pay the girl takes everything out of the bag and scans it again. I don't quite see how doing something twice works out faster.

They used those over here for a while - you walked around with a little scanner and you were "randomly" chosen for rescanning.

The machines I'm talking about are intended to replace the "10 items or less" checkout with a machine.

Re:A great idea but bound to be executed badly (2, Interesting)

will_die (586523) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642997)

That is as bad as the old system you saw in alot of Communist countries, seen in Poland, czechoslovakia and Bulgaria.
There you would go to one person they would select the items you wanted from behind the shelves and place them in a basket, this would then be passed on to the second lady who would then total up your costs and give you a paper listing your total, the basket would then be passed to a third lady who would wrap up your items and place in bags you provided and that would finally be passed to the last lady who was at the door who would take the slip of paper so you could pay then hand you your items.
All of them were seperated so the lady with the basket would have to walk them over to the next station.

Re:A great idea but bound to be executed badly (1)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643277)

That was actually for two reasons: the first was that everybody was obliged to work, so many jobs that were not strictly necessary were created, the second to make it harder for employees to steal from the store.

Re:A great idea but bound to be executed badly (5, Insightful)

RMH101 (636144) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642909)

Great idea, flawed execution - you're not wrong. Whilst I still use them at my local Tescos, I use them because I take a calculated guess that I can deal with the self-service system and its bugs and short queue quicker than queuing up in the long line at the conventional checkout line.

I'm usually the guy who's standing there muttering "C'mon, c'mon!" under his breath whilst waiting for the damn thing to recognise that I really have scanned my purchase and placed it on the checkout roller. The annoying thing is you could see how it could be really great - better scanners, faster recognition: swipe, bag, insert card and you're done.
(Thinking about it, having self-checkout that's a bit of a pain to use unless you're slightly geek-savvy might not be a bad thing - keeps the queues down for us)

On a related note, to those of you who also buy clothing at supermarkets, bear in mind the self-service tills neither offer to remove the security tag from clothing, nor remind you that there's one present. Happily, there's lots of guides on the internet that'll walk you through removing these things at home using nothing more complex than a butane lighter.

Re:A great idea but bound to be executed badly (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643061)

The annoying thing is you could see how it could be really great - better scanners, faster recognition: swipe, bag, insert card and you're done.

Even more annoying: if you've ever worked in a supermarket, you'll know that the scanners on the "normal" checkouts are very reliable and very fast. How they messed up the implementation on the self-service units I don't know.

Re:A great idea but bound to be executed badly (4, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642921)

I saw one at woolworths here in Melbourne which crashed to a windows desktop. The staff got a bit upset when I started to play with it. It would have been interesting if there were any test or debugging tools floating around. Perhaps I could have "fixed" it for them.

Re:A great idea but bound to be executed badly (2, Insightful)

drspliff (652992) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642989)

"Please remove your item from the scales"
WTF.. there's nothing on them
"Please put your items in the bags to the left"
I only got a sandwich and a can of coke!
"Please put your items in the bags to the left"
*hrmmm*
"Please remove your item from the scales"
*cancel*

I hate those infernal machines!

My first real world experience (3, Insightful)

grungeman (590547) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642877)

Just a few days ago when I was shopping with my family at a "real" store (maybe comparable to WalMart in the US) in Potsdam (near Berlin), I was confronted with this kind of scale. The scale looks similar to the standard self service scales, but it sports a touch screen instead of the panel with selection buttons. The camera is also included in the touch sceen.

After I had placed a clear bag with nectarines on the scale it displayed a number of selections that it considered the appropriate type of fruit. None of the selections came even close, so I had to select "nectarines" manually on the touch sceen.

Generally this is a nice idea, but it just does not seem to work, maybe also because we always place the fuits in bags before putting them on the scale.

Re:My first real world experience (3, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642943)

They should just inject the nectarines with RFID tags when they are packed. As a bonus the customer gets tagged multiple times as well.

Re:My first real world experience (1)

dw604 (900995) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643057)

rfid on the sticker....

Self-Checkout scales are badly calibrated... (1)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642885)

Half the time, self-checkout scales are badly calibrated. To exacerbate this issue, about half the people who use them don't realize they operate on product weight.

This leads to accusations of theft when people lean on the wrong portion of the machine, or simply out of nowhere because the AC kicked in blowing onto the scale.

Adding yet more application of the scale's reading toward functionality will create even more glitches in this regard.

Additionally, the self checkouts in my area are used at nazi-mart, where half the inventory requires a card not by law, but because the waltons are invasive (explatives deleted)

whoops.. (1)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642903)

it's based on photo scanning now..

we all know image recognition is so much more advanced than weight sensitivity.

a little smear on the scanner (all the scanners ive seen even on the human operated machines are filthy) and it's mistaking apples for oranges, oranges for grapefruits, and pineapples for watermelons.

I stand by my analysis though, and predict utter failure if implemented.

Bye bye service industry (5, Insightful)

damburger (981828) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642887)

We have stopped making things, and now increased automation is rendering the service industry pointless. To be honest, like most of the public, I would rather deal with a machine than another human being, if only because that other human being is inevitably some slack-jawed sack of cynicism and self-loathing who hates their job and thus a large percentage of their existence.

The economy of western Europe, therefore, is developing into one based entirely on producing reality TV shows and suing people for sharing them on the Internet. Hooray.

Re:Bye bye service industry (1)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642917)

We have stopped making things, and now increased automation is rendering the service industry pointless. To be honest, like most of the public, I would rather deal with a machine than another human being, if only because that other human being is inevitably some slack-jawed sack of cynicism and self-loathing who hates their job and thus a large percentage of their existence.

The economy of western Europe, therefore, is developing into one based entirely on producing reality TV shows and suing people for sharing them on the Internet. Hooray.

well, at least the self-serve checkouts cant rebel, form a machine nation called "zero-one", then crush humanity and plug them into a power grid

Re:Bye bye service industry (1)

WDot (1286728) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642999)

Where do you go with such workers? I will agree that this may be the case for many workers, but they are paid to not show it when they're dealing with customers, even if the customer is difficult. Some give me a smile and some don't, but as long as they can do their job reasonably well I don't care too much--I'm in a hurry anyway.

I almost never use the self-service machines because they're poorly designed and because I'm not THAT antisocial--yet.

Re:Bye bye service industry (1)

damburger (981828) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643213)

A lot of people feel the same. I however have difficulty in most human contact situations, even more so with strangers, so I will often go for the self service. I know I am an outlier in terms of sociability, but think of me as the canary in the mine. Technology that I currently use to alienate myself from society will eventually temp you into doing the same.

Re:Bye bye service industry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24643031)

Download the latest episodes of "MTV - The Free World" onto your NeuroPad (TM) today!

Will Trevor succeed in finding water in the nuclear desert? Find out only at MTV - Mecha Torture Vision

Re:Bye bye service industry (1)

andersh (229403) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643179)

The economy of western Europe, therefore, is developing into one based entirely on producing reality TV shows and suing people for sharing them on the Internet. Hooray.

That is utter rubbish! You might be damn near incompetent and incapable of working but the rest of us are not. From Nokia to Alcatel, Western Europe is full of innovative companies! We produce things in all industries from chemicals, electronics, software to space technology!

Re:Bye bye service industry (1)

damburger (981828) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643203)

Wrong

We don't produce any of those things; we produce the plans for such things. Physical manufacture is largely done elsewhere. Thus we are slaves to increasingly stifling IP legislation because our economy depends on such ethereal production.

I was being flippant originally, but underneath that is a point: we are slowly moving from primarily adding value to the world economy to primarily rent seeking.

Active Industry (1)

andersh (229403) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643251)

We don't produce any of those things; we produce the plans for such things. Physical manufacture is largely done elsewhere.

Wrong yourself. You better tell my customers that they don't produce those products themselves right here in high-cost Northern Europe. You are making political "points" ignoring the truth or you are simply oblivious to it!

Re:Bye bye service industry (3, Interesting)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643225)

I will start using self checkout when they start giving me a discount on my purchase for the money they save on a cashier. Until then I'll keep on using the cashier lines, that is while they still exist.

Self-Service is not Self-Repair (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24642939)

When I read the headline I interpreted it as a scale that can repair itself when it breaks.

But then again, that's why I'm an anonymous coward.

My girlfriend... (5, Funny)

PotatoFiend (1330299) | more than 5 years ago | (#24642965)

My girlfriend unwittingly leaned across one of these scales to reach a bag of apples, whereupon the screen started showing pictures of different kinds of melons. Fairly accurate, I'd say.

Melons? (4, Funny)

RudeIota (1131331) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643023)

My girlfriend unwittingly leaned across one of these scales to reach a bag of apples, whereupon the screen started showing pictures of different kinds of melons

... You never removed the bar code from your inflatable life partner? :\

Re:Melons? (0, Troll)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643087)

bzzt! the correct response is: "she needs to watch where she slings her stomach"

Re:My girlfriend... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643131)

My girlfriend unwittingly leaned across one of these scales to reach a bag of apples, whereupon the screen started showing pictures of different kinds of melons. Fairly accurate, I'd say.

Its a bit like how spell checkers give computers a sense of humor. Optical processing and an obsession with fruit have given this checkout an obsession with round things.

Doomed to Fail (4, Funny)

Bazman (4849) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643033)

My usual lunchtime shop has trouble reading BARCODES on half the stuff I buy. Swipe, nothing, swipe, nothing, swipe, nothing... Type in tiny number, beep. Yeah, that's time saving. And now I'm being told computers can tell the difference between tangerines and satsumas? Heck, I can't even do that!

I call shenanigans. Either:

  * each vegetable has a secret RFID chip in it
or
  * the picture is sent to some outsourced call centre where someone sits at a screen watching vegetables all day and clicking on what they are.

Re:Doomed to Fail (2, Insightful)

dw604 (900995) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643059)

B might actually work

Re:Doomed to Fail (1)

Asztal_ (914605) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643163)

Replace "outsourced call centre" with "CAPTCHA for gmail", and you'll have spammers rushing to solve the problem for you.

Re:Doomed to Fail (1)

xehonk (930376) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643153)

If you had bothered to read even half of the summary, you would have noticed, that the scale would detect that it's some kind of orange, round fruit and show you a selection of possible matches, including tangerines and satsumas.

Re:Doomed to Fail (1)

OneSmartFellow (716217) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643299)

the scale would detect that it's some kind of orange, round fruit and show you a selection of possible matches

I think you missed the OP's point. How many varieties of 'orange, round fruit' do you suppose there are. I've seen lemons that were almost indestinguishable from an orange. I've seen oranges, the size of a large grapefruit. There are varieties and hybrids that only an expert could identify. Now, make me choose amongst say, a half dozen, photos of 'orange round fruit', and what are you gonna get ??

That's why we need biometric photography (1)

meist3r (1061628) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643047)

So the scale can send your picture and ID to the FBI for large scale vegetable fraud and conspiracy to fruit theft when your puny human brain can't decide whether the apple on the picture is slightly larger or less reddish than the one you are actually trying to pay for.

Refuse to use them (5, Insightful)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643063)

I refuse to use self-service checkouts. They have installed two of them in the local Tesco (occupies the position that Wal-Mart does in the UK market).

Every time I go in, a clipboard-wielding junior manager tries to make me use them. I usually just say "No", but next time I've resolved to explain why.

Completely aside from the fact that the implementation is dreadful, the things are designed to do people out of a job, in a town that sorely needs jobs. Two of these things are typically supervised by one worker, instead of requiring two people to man two manual ones. You only spend on capital if you have an expectation of increased quality or reduced labour costs, and I can't see these things increasing quality.

People who work grocery retail are at the bottom end of the labour market, so where are they going to go? I don't feel comfortable helping the the likes of Tesco line their pockets like this. I'm starting to feel close to the line where I stop shopping there (if only they hadn't managed to crowd out all the local greengrocers and fishmongers, which I suppose is partially my fault).

sounds like a job for decision support (1)

cyb97 (520582) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643261)

rather than smart computer.

I'd rather have the scale suggest to me (and me confirming or choosing something else) the type of fruit/veg rather than telling me.

As I can quite clearly envision the scenario where scale is wrong (tangerine, kumquat, etc.) and I have to track down some scarce-in-supply worker to actually override the scale (or just accept that it is wrong and deal with what ever that means in price).

It is much more suited for computerised decision support than computerised recognition. It would probably be right in the majority of cases (the easy ones) and when it comes to the difficult ones, the customer usually knows what (s)he is buying anyway...

Auto checkout (1)

Crookdotter (1297179) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643287)

What is involved in having every item of food tagged so that you simply bundle it all in bags and then as you go through the checkout it adds it all up and gives a total to the checkout monkey? I know fruit and veg might be difficult, but I've always thought that handling every single item and pushing it past a laser if very inefficient. I thought we were living in an age of technlology? Where is super cheap mass RFID at the moment?

Bar code fruit stickers (1)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 5 years ago | (#24643297)

Or, they could just put a bar code on the fruit stickers... nah, that's too easy.

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