Will Convenience Stores Cash in on Robot Cashiers?

A time when robots rule the (retail) world may be sooner than we thought. While it’s well known Japan is fond of using robots in traditional jobs (robotic staff at Henn-na Hotel and increasing talk of incorporating robotic nurses in nursing homes to name a couple), this latest robotic innovation involves self-checkouts at convenience stores and eventually, at supermarkets, too.

However, this is not the self-checkout we all know and loathe: there is no scan-multiple-times-but-this-item-still-won’t-register nuisance, where it’s simpler to suffer the small talk and silent judgment over your large load of cookies/chuhai/other vice of choice at the normal cash register.

No, this is a self-checkout system made of dreams, and it’s the brainchild of Panasonic. nicknamed Regirobo (Regi for register and Robo for robot). It’s the brainchild of Panasonic and the system works in tandem with a robotic shopping basket to scan and bag customers’ items through one easy method. Simply put your desired items inside the basket, head to the robotic cashier station and the system will scan all the products, and even bag them for you! It’s as easy as self-checkout systems have claimed, but failed to be, for years.

By replacing some human cashiers (not all — things like oden, magazines, tickets and umbrellas still need to be bought manually) with this system, Panasonic estimates a 10 percent cut in labor costs, and an ease in pressure off convenience store chains, who are finding it increasingly hard to find staff.

For now, this system is only available at a Lawson store in Osaka, but if it proves successful, Panasonic plans to incorporate Regirobos in 10 more stores nationwide by the fall, and hopes to take it further nationwide by 2018. By then, late night snack shopping will finally be a secret shame no one else will ever need to know about.

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