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Express Lane

Profile of Optimal Robotics Corp. which created the U-scan Express, an automated self-checkout system

This story appears in the December 2000 issue of Entrepreneurs Start-Ups magazine.

You've selected the perfect Cabernet for your date, who will be at your apartment in 15 minutes-and you'd sure like to buy it, if it weren't for the cashier who's chatting with the woman who just spent five minutes locating her ATM card and now can't swipe it correctly. Enter U-Scan Express, an automated self-checkout system that allows shoppers to scan, purchase and bag goods, minus the cashier. Buy alcohol, cigarettes or other restricted items, and U-Scan, masterminded by Optimal Robotics Corp. in Montreal, will prompt a clerk to check ID. Finally, we're entering Jetsons territory.

Now before you jump to "This will steal people's jobs!" conclusions, let CEO Neil Wechsler, 34, explain. "There's 4 percent unemployment, and retailers just can't find labor," he says. "And when you ask consumers what the worst part of their experience in a retail establishment is, they say 'getting out of there.' " As far as reaction from unions, Wechsler's heard nary a peep.

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