Our New Relationship with Food: Computer Vision and Robotics in the Grocery Aisle

Annie Nasharr our consultant managing the role
Posting date: 6/3/2021 11:11 AM
Curbside pickup. Order online, pickup in store. Mealkits and subscription boxes. Self-checkout. Contactless payments, Robots-as-a-Service (RaaS), smart carts, and more. These are just a few of the advances which have been amped up during the pandemic and could be here to stay. 

Now well-versed in physical distancing and self-preservation from quarantine to vaccine, we have reestablished a healthy relationship with food and where it comes from. Food is our way to connect with others and to be social. Our shopping experience has found a hybrid life virtually and physically using the latest in computer vision and robotics technologies. 

Here are three few ways your grocery experience has been transformed.

  • Robotics
  • Smart carts
  • Dark Stores and Ghost Kitchens

Pickup on Aisle 3! Robots in Store and Behind the Scenes


In an effort to protect shoppers, cashiers, and the countless essential workers who kept everyone in food and sundries, some groceries have opted for a robotic assist. What do these robots do? Think hazard warnings, inventory control, and a device workers can turn to for help with items on the highest warehouse shelf. No more lugging the step or extension ladder.

While they can’t do everything at once. These robots can assist humans where help is most needed. 

There is no one-size-fits-all robot. Each is equipped with its own unique speciality. Where one robot warns shoppers and employees of spills in both Spanish and English, another alerts staff to misplaced products or out-of-stock items.

When it comes to inventory, the early days of COVID-19 showed how imperative it was to keep necessary items fully stocked. Anyone else remember the run-on toilet paper? Using Machine Learning and Computer Vision to identify spills, out-of-stock items, or misplaced products, these robots make the rounds giving workers more time to focus on customers.

Smart Carts ID Preferences


Imagine a self-checkout right from your shopping cart. Lined up next to traditional shopping carts or buggies, these branded smart carts take note of what is being put into them. It may make recommendations of additional items or recipes from what’s already in the cart. And the days of putting your product in the cart, then taking them out again to be scanned could soon be a thing of the past.

Because not only can your smart cart scan both your labeled and your weighted item, it tallies your bill and allows you to pay from what is essentially a grocery counter on wheels. It’s not quite contactless. But it's close.

Going Dark in Light of Pandemic-era Shopping


Dark grocery stores are brick-and-mortar stores closed to the public, so they can be more efficient as fulfillment centers for the increased load of pickup and delivery options.

In an effort to stay safe, more and more people turned to online shopping, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down. While online shopping, or rather online grocery shopping, isn’t new. The pandemic-related issues of close contact launched those on the fence and the demand for delivery continues. 

In a Nutshell: Our Renewed Relationship with Food


Last year brought a renewed relationship with our food. We used it to reconnect with our families and our friends via video. Many of us got back to our roots and creative forces sourcing local ingredients, baking and breaking bread with the loved ones. In a renewed relationship with food, we have a better understanding of what fuels us. 

And in a McKinsey interview with Brian Solis, Salesforce.com’s Global Innovation Engineer explains his vision of what the future could be like in retail:

By 2030, 5G will have given way to 6G. We’ll have sensors, computer vision, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, immersive and spatial computing. How can these worlds play together in a way that is almost fantasy-like? Figuring that out takes imagination. It takes experience architecture—a new type of discipline and expertise. I wouldn’t be shocked if the best retailers in 2030 are employing game designers or spatial-computing designers.”

Check out this article for other ways your grocery experience may have changed. Whether it's food, fashion, or fun, the next projects to consider are those that play together. Use your imagination and, if you’re looking for your next role in Big Data, Analytics, Computer Vision, or Robotics, Harnham may have a role for you. 

Check out our current vacancies or contact one of our expert consultants to learn more. 

For our West Coast Team, contact us at (415) 614 - 4999 or send an email to sanfraninfo@harnham.com

For our Mid-West and East Coast teams contact us at (212) 796-6070 or send an email to newyorkinfo@harnham.com.  

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