"Checking out groceries requires just enough mental-processing skills to be a prohibitive challenge for computers."

#Computers

Mon, Oct 7th, 2013 20:00 by capnasty NEWS

Farhad Manjoo of the Wall Street Journal, thinks that while robots and computers are repeatedly replacing humans in a variety of roles and tasks, the self-checkout machine is one example that "doesn't hold a candle to the humans—and its deficiencies neatly illustrate the limits of computers' abilities to mimic human skills."

The human supermarket checker is superior to the self-checkout machine in almost every way. The human is faster. The human has a more pleasing, less buggy interface. The human doesn't expect me to remember or look up codes for produce, she bags my groceries, and unlike the machine, she isn't on hair-trigger alert for any sign that I might be trying to steal toilet paper. Best of all, the human does all the work while I'm allowed to stand there and stupidly stare at my phone, which is my natural state of being.

There is only one problem with human checkers: They're in short supply. At my neighborhood big-box suburban supermarket, the lines for human checkers are often three or four deep, while the self-checkout queue is usually sparse. Customers who are new to self-checkout might take their short lines to mean that the machines are more efficient than the humans, but that would be a gross misunderstanding. As far as I can tell, the self-checkout lines are short only because the machines aren't very good.

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