Checking your phone, pushing a shopping cart, reading the nutritional info on that new Cheerios variant, reining in your hyper-curious children - going to the grocery store can be an exhausting exercise in multitasking. If you choose to do your pantry-stocking at Whole Foods, though, you may find that juggling all of those tasks will become remarkably easier in the future.
No, Whole Foods isn't going to be sewing an extra pair of free-range hands onto your body - they just want to free up the set of hands you already have. To do that, the grocer is set to debut a prototype for a hands-free shopping cart utilizing Microsoft's Kinect. The sensor technology of Kinect will work with a Windows 8 Tablet in order to follow your motions and obey your voice commands, thus ferrying you into the future of shopping.
GeekWire broke the news yesterday that Whole Foods was working on the shopping cart of the future, which is also capable of recognizing a shopper's Whole Foods loyalty card and uploading your shopping list to the tablet.
As you put items into the cart, the cart will recognize the items with a vocalized confirmation, but be on your best behavior: the shopping cart is not afraid to act as a dietary nanny, as well, which you'll see below in the demo.
Wired.com put on their detective caps and managed to find out that the Kinect-enabled shopping cart is the product of Microsoft's collaboration with Chaotic Moon, a mad science lab of inventors you may recall from CES 2012 when they dazzled audiences with their motorized skateboard. Wired spoke with an anonymous source related to the project and found out that the futuristic shopping buggie, which Wired is calling Smarter Cart, comes with the aforementioned Windows tablet and a UPC scanner. The tablet will be able to read shopping lists using RFID tags and, based on your list, make recommendations or even second-guess some of those buys that might breach the boundaries of nutrition (as evidenced by the cart's questioning of a gluten product in the video above). What's more, it appears that you can even pay for your items directly with the cart - no need to go bumbling through U-Scans or bother a cashier.
Of course, extant problems with shopping carts like the inevitable wheel that doesn't really roll so much as drag stubbornly with the cart won't necessarily be remedied by the Chaotic Moon gang, but then again, if anybody could re-invent the wheel it's probably that crew. In case your memory lapsed and you forgot what these savants were capable of, check out the video of their mind-controlled skateboard (yes, you read that correctly).
So if these guys can invent a brainwave-directed skateboard, they can probably handle your grocery store needs with utmost finesse and ease.