The rush to automate manual labor jobs has reached new heights in convenience stores. Self-service checkouts are hardly new, but Panasonic and Lawson are taking them one step further in Japan. They've developed a new basket system which can detect the items you've placed inside and then, once you've reached the till, bag them up automatically. It's an elaborate concept -- the bottom of the basket slides out, allowing your chosen goods to carefully fall into a bag underneath. The basket then slides away from you, creating a space to pick up the bag and walk out.
As the Wall Street Journal reports, the experimental "Regirobo" isn't finished just yet. You have to manually scan the items, for instance, before placing them in your basket. (Electronic item tags will be introduced in February, enabling the automatic detection.) It's also restricted to a single store opposite Panasonic's headquarters in Osaka. Should the trial be successful, the company will pursue a wider roll-out in 2018, however.
The new Lawson and Panasonic collaboration follows the reveal of Amazon Go, an arguably more ambitious take on grocery store shopping. The company hopes to remove the checkout experience entirely using a mixture of "computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning." You merely launch the Amazon app and swipe it across a terminal to enter; once you're inside, the system will detect when you pick up items and add them to your virtual cart. The basket is negated entirely -- you simply place the items in the same bag you wish to walk out with. Like Panasonic's system, however, it will be limited to one store on Blanchard Street, Seattle.
For now then, convenience store jobs are secure. But for how long? That's a difficult question. An even trickier one is the effect a global roll-out would have on the economy, the retailer sector specifically and employment.