The Futuristic Shopping Carts Kroger Is Testing Out

It's difficult to fully enumerate the ways in which the coronavirus pandemic has altered the world and the ways we live in it. You may have gotten used to the constant hand sanitizing and social distancing, or to the presence of masks in all public spaces, but those aren't the only changes. For instance, Kroger is testing a new smart shopping cart in the Cincinnati area that could do away with in-person cashiers in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19 (via The Cincinnati Enquirer).

The cart, built by New York-based company Caper, includes a screen interface that can recommend items, display store promotions, and even has wayfinding capabilities to cut down on the need for shoppers to interact with staff face-to-face. Named the KroGo program, it also has a built-in scale and utilizes artificial intelligence to recognize items or let customers manually scan barcodes themselves as they shop. According to the CEO of Caper, "In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for autonomous checkout technology is driving grocers and retailers to innovate and adopt new technologies that keep shoppers safe and streamline checkout." While the push to innovate may be spurred by the pandemic, these types of technological advancements were already in the works well before 2020.

What else you should know about the new KroGo program

Even before the start of the pandemic prompted us toward automation, this type of technology was already being built. Take, for instance, Amazon, which opened its first cashier-less retail store in 2019 (via Today). Today they own 25 convenience stores and one grocery store that utilizes similar artificial intelligence technology to provide a cashier-less experience (via Supermarket News). The new, Caper version is different, however. It is compatible with reusable bags, allows shoppers to weigh produce directly on the cart, and keeps a running price tally as the customer shops (via WLWT5).

The technology seems like a great way to keep customers and grocery store employees alike safe, and save time, as we continue to muddle through the pandemic (via YouTube). Unfortunately, there are no plans yet for a larger rollout of the Caper smart carts in Kroger stores beyond the Cincinnati area.