New supermarket scanner recognizes objects by appearance, not barcodes


March 8, 2012

Toshiba Tec's new supermarket scanner is able to identify grocery items based on nothing but their appearance (Photo: DigInfo)

Toshiba Tec's new supermarket scanner is able to identify grocery items based on nothing but their appearance (Photo: DigInfo)

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At some point, we've probably all had a supermarket cashier ask us to identify the mysterious fresh produce that we're attempting to buy. Once we've told them what it is, they have then had to manually type in its code - they have to enter it themselves, of course, given that fruits and vegetables don't have barcodes. Thanks to Toshiba Tec, however, those days may be coming to an end. The company's new Object Recognition Scanner is able to instantly identify grocery items of all types based on their appearance alone.

Instead of a barcode-reading laser, the Object Recognition Scanner has a camera. That camera filters out background "noise" in its picture, so that it only sees objects held close to its lens against a neutral black background. Using pattern recognition software, the scanner has been taught to recognize different varieties of fruits and vegetables, along with packaged products and coupons. It can do so even if they're held up to the camera for a relatively short time, and aren't held absolutely still - which is pretty much the whole point of the system.

Given that it wouldn't be practical to expect supermarket staff to teach the system to recognize every item in their store, it will instead be delivered with a pre-installed database of produce and other products. Because the appearance of fresh produce changes with the season, it will take a full year to compile that database.

Toshiba is now refining the technology, so that it can more quickly and easily "read" objects from a wide range of distances.

More information is available in the video below.

Source: DigInfo via Ubergizmo

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

Most of the fruits and vegetables I buy already have stickers on them with a bar code but they do have more than one variety of each type of produce.


This has the potential for some hilarious mistakes.


interesting...wondering how the machine recognizes the weight or quantity.

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