If I’m shopping under the fluorescent lights and beeping checkouts of one of those supermegaultra Walmarts, I’m stressed out—and I don’t need a cart to tell me that. But the retail giant might one day be able to know, via biometrics, when its shoppers are especially tense.
CB Insights reports that Walmart has filed a patent for a “Biometric Feedback Cart Handle” that would measure shoppers’ pulse, temperature, and force level when they’re touching the carts’ handles. (It is worth clicking on the actual patent application to view Walmart’s “illustration” of the system, which appears to have been created by Microsoft Paint.) The application notes in its summary that the data could be collected and measured against a baseline to alert store employees when a customer “may need assistance.” According to CB Insights, the carts’ computer system could also potentially flag a situation as serious enough to warrant an automatic call for medical assistance.
How many people are having emergencies in Walmart?, you might ask. As of July, America is home to 3,565 Walmart Supercenters; 393 Walmart discount stores; 704 Walmart neighborhood markets; and 597 Sam’s Clubs (also owned by Walmart). That is a lot of locations where customers could potentially experience a medical emergency. All we can hope is that these carts use our biometric data for good—instead of, say, to advertise blood-pressure medication to us.