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Hey Brainiac, Your Shopping Cart is Smarter than You

The question isn't if the machines will take over, it's when and where. The answer? Now, and in the supermarket. Apparently we've all grown so feeble-minded that we're incapable of reading ingredients lists. Likewise, we seem to be having trouble … Read More

By / October 12, 2007

The question isn't if the machines will take over, it's when and where. The answer? Now, and in the supermarket. Apparently we've all grown so feeble-minded that we're incapable of reading ingredients lists. Likewise, we seem to be having trouble with the concept of "too much" when it comes to junk food. The solution? Literacy mentoring? Help from a nutritionist? Puhleez. The solution, obviously, is to let someone else do the thinking for us–ideally a smart cart.

Supermarket shoppers may soon be cruising the aisles with "intelligent" shopping carts that warn them if they are purchasing too much junk food, technology experts say.

Some shoppers are already using the advanced shopping carts. Trials of touch-screen computers on them have been conducted in stores in the U.S.

While many people probably would be happy enough if they could simply get their cart to travel in a straight line, the high-tech model is fitted with a computer screen and bar-code scanner.

It can read each product's individual code to give customers information about calories, nutrition, ethical sourcing and the environment.

I'm really not some neo-Luddite opposed to this sort of technology overall. In fact, I'm all for technology that enhances convenience and facilitates our ability to gather information, learn, and grow. But this just strikes me as a cop out. Carts that scan each item, keep "a running total of how much you are spending — and actually eliminate the need to wait in line at the check-out" sound great, and guess what: they already exist.

Shopping carts that do the thinking for you, though, don't make anybody smarter, and don't really address the dangerous disconnect between people and the stuff we call food. People who need a smart cart to tell them when they've loaded up with too many bags of chips, cartons of cookies, and tubs of ice cream have a bigger problem than a barcode scanner can fix.

Agree? Disagree? Tested one of these suckers? Bring it on in comments.

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