February 28th, 2012
01:53 PM ET

Kinect-powered shopping cart follows you around, knows what you're buying

By John D. Sutter, CNN

(CNN) - Here's a cool demo from a group called Chaotic Moon Studios:

In the clip, which a reporter from GeekWire filmed at a Microsoft event on Monday, a Whole Food shopping cart follows a shopper around and helps him complete his shopping list. The cart appears to be equipped with a tablet computer that's connected to an Microsoft Kinect motion-sensing camera.

The camera scans items as they go into the cart and checks them off of a shopping list. When the man in the demo finishes shopping, it says: "That completes the items on your shopping list."

It also knows a thing or two about the shopper's preferences. In the demo, a man puts a box of spaghetti into the cart only to be scolded by the talking machine.

"Note you have indicated you prefer gluten-free. This item contains gluten."

Then it helps him find a similar product that does not contain gluten.

Oh, and it's motorized. The camera senses your location and then - with a few hiccups, as the demo shows - follows you around the store. (This sounds awesome on its face but might be a nightmare on a crowded Sunday afternoon, when grocery stores can look like scenes from a zombie apocalypse).

It's unclear when if ever this technology will actually show up in stores. Libba Letton, a spokeswoman for Whole Foods, said the company provided the shopping cart and is interested in the technology but has no immediate plans to implement it.  "Whole Foods is always trying new stuff," she said.

She gave credit for the invention to Austin-based Chaotic Moon Studios, which has come up with all kinds of wacky and cool ways to use Xbox Kinect cameras. Check out this video clip of a mind-controlled skateboard, for instance. They call it the "board of imagination."

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Filed under: Design • Innovation • Tech
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