RoboGrocery is the first step towards robots packing our grocery

When I first encountered a self-checkout system in IKEA a few years ago, I sort of panicked because I didn’t know what to do. But after experiencing it and eventually figuring things out, I thought this was such a convenient way to do your shopping, especially if you want to keep social interactions at a minimum. Now if only there was a also a self-packing system since the packing up groceries stuff is the most difficult.

Designer: MIT CSAIL

Eventually, this can of course come true and one step towards a system like this is the RoboGrocery. This was developed by MIT’s CSAIL department and uses a soft robotic gripper together with computer vision to help you bag groceries and other small items. It’s still in its early stages of course but seeing how it’s working at this time seems pretty promising.

They tested it out by placing 10 objects on a grocery conveyer belt, ranging from soft items like grapes, crackers, muffins, bread to the more solid ones like cans, meal boxes, and ice cream containers. The vision detects the size of the item to determine the order of placing it in a box. The grasper, with the pressure sensors in its fingers, then determines whether the item is delicate and should not be placed at the bottom of the bag.


While we’re still a few steps away from actually having a robot to bag your groceries, it’s an interesting first step towards that. Eventually, after it becomes available for commercial use, they might also be able to develop this for industrial spaces like recycling plants and factories.