This Bakery AI is Fighting Cancer

It does a lot more than spot croissants

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AI bakery pastry detector

We began sharing weekly human stories from the world of AI six months ago. We’re so glad to have you here on this journey with us. It’s been fun to ignore all the noise and worry around artificial intelligence and try to find the real stories impacting humans like you each week.

There’s been a pattern in our coverage of AI that’s struck a chord with us: AI has a lot of transferable skills.

An AI trained to do one thing can often help tremendously elsewhere. And more frequently than not, it tends to be money-driven industries leading the charge. They fund the development of AI models at a record pace. Then, once they’ve achieved the impossible, the rest of us can also take their AI for a spin.

This week’s story takes begins in a pastry shop in Japan.

You decide which pastries you want to buy. You place them into bags, some clear and some brown paper, then head to the checkout. To your surprise, no one is behind the tills. But instead of tapping a touch screen and trying to find each of the pastries you want to buy from a list of options, all you do is place your selection on the table. Instantly, the till knows which pasties you chose and charges you correctly for them.

It sounds made up, but it isn’t!

These shops use a unique AI system called BakeryScan to speed up the checkout process. BakeryScan can instantly recognise which croissants and other pastries you chose. It doesn’t stop there; the system calculates the prices and manages the rest of the transaction process.

BakerySkan has revolutionised bakeries in Japan. It’s faster and makes fewer errors than its human counterpart — we’ve all tapped around at a self-checkout before eventually tapping on the regular croissant because we can’t find the chocolate one in the tiny grid of pictures.

The AI system took years to train and had to learn how to adapt to different lighting conditions, placements, and various pastry shapes.

But here’s the cool part — what started as a pastry-detecting tool now has an unbelievable range of use cases. The BakeryScan tech was expanded with a new, broader name, AI-Scan.

Today, the AI model is used in various ways, including detecting incorrectly wired bolts in jet engine parts and recognising pills in hospitals.

Most importantly, AI-Scan is now being used to detect cancer cells. No kidding. It probably wouldn't fill you with much hope to find out as a patient that a tool originally designed to detect croissants is now going to be checking to see if you’ve got cancer — but it is!

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