Research project

VIRAS - Shopping independently in the supermarket thanks to an autonomous shopping trolley

VIRAS stands for ‘Visually Impaired Robot-Assisted Shopping’. The interdisciplinary project is developing and testing an autonomous shopping trolley for blind and visually impaired people. At the same time, its potential and further development possibilities for use by older people or people with limited mobility when shopping are being assessed. To this end, the IAF team is conducting a needs analysis based on written questionnaires, individual interviews and focus groups.

Shopping independently in the supermarket is very important for people with visual impairments and people with other physical limitations. It is one of the instrumental activities of daily living (IADL) that can be used to measure functional health and is associated with autonomy.

In cooperation with various associations for the blind in Switzerland, the ILT Institute of Laboratory Automation and Mechatronics has developed a prototype of an autonomous shopping trolley designed to help visually impaired and blind people shop independently in the supermarket. The shopping trolley is equipped with sensors, loudspeakers and a motor. Among other things, the shopping trolley is designed to help users navigate the supermarket, recognise products on the shelves and approach products and checkouts. The shopping trolley also tracks the user's hand and provides acoustic instructions so that they can select the desired product on the shelf.

Older people could also benefit from the autonomous shopping trolley. For example, if they have major functional limitations such as reduced mobility. In order to make the shopping trolley usable for certain groups of older people and thus promote their autonomy when shopping and their quality of life, the Institute for Gerontology is carrying out a needs analysis among older people. Barriers to shopping are to be identified using a written survey, guided interviews and focus groups. Together with older people and the Institute of Laboratory Automation and Mechatronics, ideas will then be developed as to whether and how the functions and design of the autonomous shopping trolley can be optimised to meet the needs of certain groups of older people or whether and where there is potential for expansion in the current prototype.

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Duration: 01.04.2024 - 30.04.2026

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