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Smart grocery carts are coming to change the way we shop

Move over, Amazon Go. Kroger is working with startup Caper on a smart grocery cart that lets you skip traditional checkout lines.

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KroGo by Caper carts in the company's store in Maderia, Ohio.

Caper

Amazon Go made waves in 2018 when it opened a grocery store that used cameras and and QR codes to let people quite literally grab and go. Then in 2020, the company unveiled Dash Carts, a shopping cart designed to replicate the Amazon Go experience without all the tech overhead. 

Now, grocery chain Kroger is taking on smart grocery carts with the help of startup Caper. Kroger and Caper are partnering on a pilot program at Kroger's store in Madeira, Ohio, just a stone's throw from the company's Cincinnati HQ. 

Emblazoned with Kroger branding, the smart carts program in Madeira is called KroGO, and it uses a handful of tech tools to whisk shoppers through the store and out the door sans checkout line.

Kroger hasn't outlined any plans for further expansion of the KroGo pilot, but this isn't the company's first smart-shopping rodeo. Kroger has tested autonomous delivery vehicles in Arizona and worked with Microsoft on digital shelf-labeling tools. 

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Smart cart screens at the Madeira store. 

Caper

The cart is equipped with a large touchscreen at the front, which connects customers to the platform's shopping list recommendations, promotional offers and even way-finding capabilities.

As you shop, you'll use the cart's built-in scale and camera with computer vision to scan, weigh and tally up your items. When it comes time to check out, you can scan your loyalty rewards card and pay directly from the cart's card reader. 

There are a few ground rules for using Kroger's KroGO system, at least in the Madeira store pilot program. Personal items like purses, wallets or phones should go in the front basket, out of the way of the system's camera and scale. You will also need to bring your own reusable bags or buy them at the front of the store.

Currently, tobacco, hard liquor, gift cards and behind-the-counter pharmacy items are not part of the program. You'll need to use a debit or credit card to pay; cash is not accepted through the cart. There's a dedicated exit area for carts in the self-checkout lane in Kroger's pilot setup. 

Smart carts like Caper's are one alternative to outfitting an entire grocery store with the dozens of cameras and code readers required by systems like Amazon Go. 

This isn't the first smart grocery cart sighting in North America. Caper also ran a test program with Sobeys grocery chain in Oakville, Ontario, in 2019. The past year has certainly opened the door for the startup thanks to rising concerns in touchless tech and more sanitary shopping.

"In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for autonomous checkout technology is driving grocers and retailers to innovate and adopt new technologies that keep shoppers safe and streamline checkout," said Caper CEO Lindon Gao in a statement. "We are excited to partner with Kroger on this pilot and look forward to gaining valuable feedback from its customers and associates."

You can read more about Kroger's KroGO pilot program on its website

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