Could Food Recognition Replace Barcodes at Supermarkets?

Ah, the barcode. What started out as something on a pack of Juicy Fruit gum at a grocery store in Troy, OH, has now become a world-wide phenomena that’s the epicenter of logistics. But, what if the very place where the barcode got its start, lead to its ultimate demise? How could this be?

Toshiba has been developing food recognition technology that uses a scanner/camera to recognize food. Despite the advent of the GS1 Databar, which allows for barcode scanning of variable weight items such as fruits and vegetables, produce still doesn’t always have a barcode on it. This causes the cashier to have to manually enter a code in order to add it to a customers’ groceries. Typically the cashier will know all of the codes and quickly enter it, but sometimes they’ll have to look it up—actually stopping, flipping through a book, finding the code, and typing it in. As you can imagine, and as you’ve most likely experienced, this slows down the checkout process incredibly.

Toshiba’s Object Recognition Scanner works using color recognition technology, which is particularly useful when it comes to fruits and vegetables (although it can also successfully identify packaged goods). In a similar manner to facial recognition technology, the Object Recognition Software uses pre-programmed parameters to categorize and identify goods, using color to sense the subtleties between similar items. In fact, the technology is so exact, that it can not only identify the type of product, let’s say—an apple, but also know that it’s a Royal Gala apple. The scanner is also able to operate at a high speed, so cashiers can easily swipe away. Watch the video below to see the Object Recognition Scanner in action:

While the technology definitely has a lot of potential, I think it will be long time before barcodes are replaced. One question I would have is how would the scanner differentiate between regular and organic produce?

Do you think technology such as Toshiba’s Object Recognition Scanner could replace the barcode in supermarkets? Share your thoughts by commenting below, or on our Facebook or twitter pages.