Grabango CEO Will Glaser said this week that because his company’s technology doesn’t use facial recognition, it can avoid some of the same types of racial biases found in other computer vision and machine learning algorithms. Glaser’s comments came during my fireside chat with him at our Smart Kitchen Summit this week.
Grabango makes cashierless (or as Grabango calls it, “lineless”) checkout technology for grocery retail. Grabango installs hundreds of cameras in the ceiling of a store, and through a combination of computer vision and AI, keeps track of what people put in their basket (or pocket). When shoppers go to check out, they choose a cashier or use an accompanying mobile app that automatically charges for the items kept.
This type of computer vision-based system is also used by other cashierless checkout companies such as Zippin, Standard Cognition and Amazon, and could become more widespread as demand for contactless retail experiences grows.
But the problem with some computer vision + AI systems is that their algorithms can contain the human biases of their creators. As TechCrunch wrote earlier this year, “MIT researchers reported in January 2019 that facial recognition software is less accurate in identifying humans with darker pigmentation.” In a busy retail environment where a lot of people are grabbing a lot of different items all throughout the day, it’s not hard to see how this type of bias could adversely impact people of color.
Glaser recognized some of the problems that can arise when algorithms are only developed or trained on white men in a lab. He made a point of saying that Grabango’s technology does not use facial recognition, and that it has a 99.6 percent revenue accuracy rate. Grabango’s system does follow a person around store, but doesn’t personally identify them (it can, however, stay with a person even after they have put on or taken off a jacket).
Grabango’s system is also being used in real world conditions, so it continues to train its algorithms in a diverse setting. Last month, Grabango announced that it’s integration with Giant Eagle’s GetGo Market in the Pittsburgh area went live. So now we’ll be able to see in a more open environment if Glaser’s claims hold true.