Mobi is a smart shopping cart concept by designers Park Chan Woo, Choi Chan Young, and Lee Eun Ji, from Seoul, Korea. It actually dates back to the summer of 2019, which only feels like an eternity because of the many nasty developments of 2020. The reason it’s getting increased media attention these days because it seems to be the solution to the aforementioned problem.

Mobi is smart, compact, and highly efficient. Using AI and a myriad of sensors, it would be able to follow shoppers around the supermarket or mart, take them to the location of their interest, help them check off items on their list, and facilitate payment. Mobi would be, should it ever be made (fingers crossed), the shopping buddy we always wanted but could only dream about.

The idea for this smart shopping cart started from the designers’ realization that part of the fun of shopping had evaporated. Once a fun activity, it was no longer so because of the many, totally unnecessary processes making it impossible for fun to be had.

Another goal of this project was to solve the issue of efficiency. Because of these processes, there was little efficiency in the shopping experience, which led to frustrations and wasted time for everyone involved.

Among these processes, designers list the need to take out your phone to check your shopping list, looking for staff members to ask them about a product’s location, waiting in line at the checkout, and then moving to the packaging table. Mobi replaces all these with a very compact, futuristic-looking, and actually quite elegant solution.

Once the shopper arrives at the supermarket, mart, or mall, they deploy the Mobi from its docking station by pairing with it via a mobile app. The designers also imagine the possibility of uploading your existent shopping list onto Mobi, which would considerably improve shopping times. The integrated screen allows you to keep track of the stuff you need, and the sensors inside help with checking off items the moment you add them to the cart.

Mobi can follow you around the store or, perhaps just as importantly, lead you to the product you need. It has a built-in navigation system, so you can “ask” it for directions to a certain aisle, and it will locate the aisle and product and lead you there.

Because this smart shopping car is all about cutting dead times at the store, it also comes with an integrated payment method. In other words, you would no longer have to wait in line at checkout: once all your items are added to the cart, you could pay contactless and then head out. “Make payments with no space or time constraints,” the designers say.

The docking station for the Mobi doubles as a charging station, allowing for up to 16 such shopping carts. The part that holds the shopping folds out when the Mobi is in use, and folds in for docking, making for a very compact and space-saving solution. For enhanced efficiency, the docking/charging station could double as self-packaging area, removing yet another one of those unnecessary “processes.”

Shoppers showing reluctance to the modern specs on the Mobi could also use it the traditional way or, at least, that’s what designers seem to be suggesting when they say it comes with a handle that can be pushed the ol’ fashioned way. Of course, they would still have to pair with it in order to take it from the docking station, but at least they wouldn’t have a dehumanized piece of machinery following them around the place.

All buts and ifs aside, this is just a concept. Smart shopping carts are not a new idea, and some features of those mentioned above are already or will soon be implemented locally. So maybe this is more than just vaporware: a glimpse into the future. Hopefully.