Like many people Luis de Matos, from the University of Beira Interior in Portugal, buys his food from a supermarket. However, there is one major issue he faces every time:

“How do you pull, or push, a shopping cart around while in a wheelchair?”

Sure, many supermarkets and shopping centres provide mobility scooters for disabled shoppers, but the difficulty with these is that a wheelchair user has to climb out of their wheelchair and onto the mobility scooter in order to use it. For some people this is practically impossible without help.

Luis built a self-driving smart shopping cart by using an Xbox Kinect and its ability to detect the human shape. All a user has to do is stand in front of the wi-GO and press a button to register their shape then the wi-GO will follow them wherever they go.

You really need to see the wi-GO in action to understand and here’s a video to watch:
As you can see from the above video this shopping cart could really change the way wheelchair users, pregnant women or the elderly shop.

wi-GO-potentialI had the great opportunity to see the wi-GO in action at the Retail Business Technology Expo (RBTE) and it was fascinating. Luis moved around the exhibition with the wi-GO obediently following a meter or two behind him. If anyone came between it and Luis then the autonomous shopping trolley would simply stop and await further instructions. The benefit of this is that the wi-GO won’t bump into anyone, it won’t run over small children and it won’t follow someone else if they move in front of it.

As long as the Kinect camera had a line of sight to Luis the wi-GO would happily shuffle along the exhibition floor avoiding obstacles and people.

Other applications

In his talk at RBTE Luis hinted at an interesting adaption of the technology. He said IS2you, the company Luis founded, would be able to digitally map a warehouse and attach the wi-GO technology to other objects such as a product bin. The operator would then be able to create “safe paths” for the system to follow around the warehouse and so the product bin could move without human control or a fixed track.

This would allow staff members to focus on putting the product out onto shelves rather than also moving the product from the warehouse. Added to that, because of the wi-GO’s collision avoidance technology your staff could still move around the warehouse safe in the knowledge that the machines they’re working with will stop should they cross paths.

For the comments

Is the wi-GO something you would use yourself or even something you would buy for your less abled customers at your shop? Could you see the technology being of use in a warehouse situation?