This retail robot from the founders of Croissant just won big at TechCrunch Disrupt - Technical.ly Brooklyn

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Sep. 13, 2016 7:17 am

This retail robot from the founders of Croissant just won big at TechCrunch Disrupt

Meet PepperPay, a cute little robot who could someday make checking out at your favorite stores a lot less painful.
The price-scanning PepperPay in action.

The price-scanning PepperPay in action.

(GIF via YouTube)

As anyone who’s ever visited the Target at Atlantic Terminal knows, stopping at the store to pick up just a few household items can easily turn into an hourlong ordeal. (Seriously, why are there never enough registers open?)

Well, the founders of Croissant — the company that offers an all-access pass to coworking spaces around New York City — feel your pain. As a side project, Dave Idell, Adam Chew and Nisha Garigarn developed PepperPay, a robot that lets you quickly purchase products simply by showing it the items you want to buy. This weekend, PepperPay won a $3,000 prize from SoftBank Robotics America at TechCrunch Disrupt’s hackathon in San Francisco.

PepperPay uses SoftBank’s Pepper robot to scan product images. A customer walks up to the robot, which gives a prompt to make a purchase, and holds up each item he or she wishes to buy. PepperPay snaps a photo of the item and uses IBM’s Watson technology to match the image to the appropriate item in the store’s inventory database. The robot’s screen then displays an image of the item and the price. Once the customer is done ringing up items, he or she can check out using PayPal.

It’s a nifty, although somewhat flashy, take on self-checkout kiosks, which, as TechCrunch writer Josh Constine points out, are prone to error if customers don’t scan the product barcode just right. (Plus, at the aforementioned Target, self-checkout hasn’t done much to shorten the lines.)

Idell told Technical.ly that robots have the potential to be even more efficient than the current breed of self-checkout machines: they can follow customers around the store, so they can scan items as they shop. (Although, to be honest, that might be a little creepy — or at the very least, not good for shopaholics.)

Although this side project is well outside of Croissant’s focus, hackathons are in the company’s DNA. Croissant itself started out as a hackathon project. “It’s something we like doing,” Idell said. “It helps us take our minds off the everyday work.”

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The company wasn’t just in San Francisco for TechCrunch Disrupt. Since mid-July, Idell and Garigarn have been in California as part of the current cohort of 500 Startups. They’ll be there until October. “It’s been super critical for helping us grow faster,” Garigarn said.

Might PepperPay someday make an appearance in Croissant’s business? It’s unlikely for now, but you never know, Idell told Technical.ly. That’s why the founders enjoy hackathons so much, he said: getting the creative juices flowing is good for coming up with business ideas, even if they aren’t things that can be immediately implemented.

“We want to make every day inspiring,” Idell said. “It’s part of the culture that’s starting to form here at Croissant.”

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