Barcodes have made grocery checkouts much simpler, so it seemed inevitable that someone would create a robot that could do the same jobs as your friendly supermarket cashier and bagger. The PR2 robot handles both tasks, but I'm a little concerned about its bagging skills.
The PR2 picks up each item with its articulated hand, then holds it up to scan the barcode and get the price. Then it tosses the item into the waiting bag, just as if it were shooting hoops on the playground.
That's a good start, but what would happen if you come up with a bunch of bananas that needed to be weighed, or some fresh bakery items that don't have a barcode? It also looks like PR2's bagging skills wouldn't win any bag boy of the year contests. If you get some eggs, followed by a gallon of milk, I'm sure the milk would be tossed in right on top of the fragile eggs.
I hate those self scan checkouts they have put in stores like Home Depot and Ikea, so I can't imagine that this will be much of an improvement. Besides, I enjoy chatting with the checkout people at my local supermarket.
PR2 was developed by a robotic team at Stanford University, and appears to be a development of another robot we saw last year. It was presented today at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), in Shanghai, China, but it's clearly still a work in progress.
Via IEEE Spectrum