Toshiba Tec, a Toshiba business arm that sells point-of-sale systems and printers, is developing an optical recognition scanner that would recognize each product based on what it looks like rather than by scanning a barcode. A major selling point is that it would recognize fruits and vegetables. Since they are not generally barcoded, employees usually need to key in a code each time they ring up produce items. This would eliminate that step and could even differentiate one type of apple from another, according to a news report on Diginfo.
The scanner uses color and pattern to recognize each item, building up a database to pull from. Toshiba demonstrated the technology early this month at the Retailtech Japan trade show.
The system needs to be fine-tuned and at present might not win any speed contests against a seasoned, fast-fingered sales clerk. Plus, a hybrid approach, where sales clerks could switch between barcode scanning and using the optical recognition software, would likely be the best approach. Scanning a box of cereal is pretty easy and fast. But optical recognition could beat out barcode scanners for products with flexible packaging, such as a plastic bag, since the barcode is easily obscured or bent, rendering it unreadable.