Meet the Bread-Scanning AI System That’s Learning to Help Doctors Diagnose Cancer

Photo Courtesy: [Ken Ishii/Getty Images]

Have you ever gone to your local bakery or grocery store and splurged on bread and produce — then waited while the cashier entered all of the price codes for every item? If so, you know how time-consuming it can be to sort through different breads, fruits and veggies. In Japan, a new technology system called BakeryScan is making this process easier — and that technology may even end up saving lives in addition to the time spent waiting in line. 

Developed by computer systems engineer Hisashi Kambe and his company, Brain Co., BakeryScan uses a camera and artificial intelligence (AI) to assess different types of baked goods so cashiers don’t have to memorize hundreds of prices. Within seconds, the point-of-sale system can identify the type of bread that’s been placed onto the checkout station below the system’s camera. The cashier doesn’t need to enter or look up any codes and can focus on completing transactions much faster.

At most bakeries, placing barcodes on fresh goods is time-consuming. Until recently, cashiers had to learn to identify baked goods by sight and either memorize the price or a code associated with each type. But BakeryScan speeds up and optimizes the checkout process. The system can differentiate more than 100 products and track their prices. And, surprisingly, its uses don’t end there.

The AI in Brain Co.’s BakeryScan might also revolutionize healthcare. As it turns out, the system’s cameras can play a role in detecting cancer cells. Versions of BakeryScan technology are now in use in medical spaces in addition to bakery registers — and it’s possible that these scanners may be joining the lineup of healthcare tech that’s now utilizing AI.