Cashiers have another tech competitor.
As Amazon prepares to cut the ribbon on its second cashierless Amazon Go store in Seattle and Microsoft tries to muscle in on the action with its own checkout-free tech, others are starting to find their legs with their own takes on grab-and-go retail.
Tel Aviv-based Trigo Vision stepped out of stealth mode this week with $7 million in seed funding and a lofty goal: The startup aims to democratize the new-era store tech for brick-and-mortars, with a proprietary system that streamlines the hardware requirements for stores to drop the checkout.
Think of it as a skinny version of Amazon Go’s camera-studded system — but, Trigo Vision claims, without loss of accuracy in product identification.
Properly and accurately ID’ing items placed in baskets and shopping carts is essential for any form of cashierless retail. Given that there’s no human being manually handling each product at a cash wrap, the system would fall apart if it couldn’t see and recognize every object to be automatically rung up.
Likewise, accuracy is critical to Trigo Vision’s solution, and it believes it has an innovative solution.
“The way we identify the products, customers and carts is different,” said Michael Gabay, cofounder and chief executive officer. “We only use basic cameras — others use very expensive cameras and need significantly more in number.”
The linchpin is artificial intelligence, which is true for both Amazon and Trigo Vision. In the latter’s case, the company is intentionally doubling down on software development to lighten the hardware load.
By using “deep learning and AI in creative ways to develop super high-fidelity computer-vision tracking,” Gabay said his team can boost the accuracy of the image capture without requiring a lot of high-priced surveillance cameras.
If it works, it would also make his system more adaptable to different environments — which is precisely the point.
Gabay doesn’t see his company as a direct competitor to Amazon’s physical stores. “They are building their own stores, and we are giving existing retailers the Amazon Go experience,” he said.
Right now, the company — the seed round for which was led by U.K. and Israel-based Hetz Ventures and Vertex Ventures Israel — is in talks with several major global retailers. One of them, with a leading European grocer with more than 5,000 stores and $50 billion in sales, looks to be at an advanced stage.
But the firm doesn’t want to stop at groceries. “We’re also eyeing several health and beauty chains,” Gabay said.
Perhaps its journey will more resemble Microsoft’s than Amazon’s. The PC software maker is reportedly shopping its system around to retailers like Walmart, which handles food, clothing, cosmetics and much more.
One thing’s becoming increasingly clear: The stock of cashierless stores looks much higher than it did even a few months ago.