Mashgin’s Computer Vision AI Self-Examination can check multiple packaged products as well as food items in a matter of seconds. The company’s smart kiosks help retailers cope with the national labor shortage.
ukul Dhankar and Abhinai Srivastava are in the business of trimming long lines. As co-founders of Mashgin, an AI-based self-starter, they are particularly interested in helping retailers busy in places like airports and stadiums by scanning multiple items in a matter of seconds.
Mashgin, an acronym for General Intelligence Blend, creates smart kiosks that offer self-pay at more than 1,000 locations, without the need for a barcode or scan. This easy-to-install countertop system includes multiple cameras that build a 3D understanding of things, regardless of the item or package position. Mashgin’s computer vision AI can identify packaged products as well as food on a plate, enabling customers in retail stores, stadium concessions and cafeterias to check out and board up to 10 times faster than a traditional teller.
“We understand that 75% of retail sales are still offline,” said Sasi CEO Srivastava, whose company also offers customized tablets and mobile-based ordering systems. “When retailers use our technology, in many cases, sales go up by a huge margin just because there aren’t lines anymore.”
Machin, along with his debut on Forbes The AI 50 List announced a $62.5 million Series B funding round on Monday. Led by global venture capital firm NEA, this round raises the company’s valuation to $1.5 billion. The profitable company has raised $75 million to date and generated nearly $14 million in revenue in 2021. With the new influx of funding, Machine plans to expand its team of 20 employees and grow its business in Europe.
Launched in 2013, Mashgin was improving its AI technology seven years before the pandemic that accelerated the adoption of cashierless payment retailers. Founders Dankar and Srivastava first met at the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, where they lived in the same one-story building. They graduated, and pursued separate career paths, but met again in Silicon Valley and started working on the startup idea.
“I remember the day Mukul created a simple demo using a table lamp and a webcam,” Srivastava recalls. That was nine years ago. While they thought that creating the technology would be a six-month project, it took them five years to develop the technology in a cost-effective manner.
“We understand that 75% of retail is still offline. When retailers use our technology, in many cases, sales go up by a huge margin just because there are no lines anymore.”
“Mokul and I drove to a convenience store in the middle of July, stood there for two weeks, and took 20 to 40 photos of each item in the store,” says Jack Hogan, Senior Vice President at Machin about how it initially built a database of 20,000 Picture of their algorithm training. So far, 35 million transactions have been made on Mashgin’s kiosks, and each transaction adds more images to the algorithm, making it even more powerful.
Dhankar, who came up with the idea for a quick and easy checkout system while waiting in line at the cafeteria, says the system is now over 99% accurate. “It gets more and more difficult with the 95% target,” he says.
Nearly a decade later, Machine is competing in an increasingly crowded market. Artificial intelligence and computer vision have punched a hole in every aspect of the modern-day retail experience: from H&M’s voice-activated smart mirrors that allow shoppers to take selfies to Amazon’s smart grocery carts that use computer vision to scan items and checkout. Through the cart itself.
Smart payment technology is expected to reach about $400 billion by 2025, according to Juniper Research. In 2021, Instacart acquired the Caper AI payment technology platform. Other AI startups in the same category, such as Tel Aviv-based Trigo and Shopic, have received significant amounts of venture capital funding amid the frenzy. This, in turn, has raised concerns about how smart payments are at risk of displacing workers, most of whom are women.
But the founders say they are meeting the needs of a nationwide labor shortage rather than reducing jobs. According to a study by S&P Global, 6.3 million retail workers left their jobs in the first 10 months of 2021. Srivastava says technologies like Mashgin help employees in turn by relieving pressures on understaffed retailers. “Many of our customers are actively trying to fill thousands of vacancies. Mashgin helps its employees focus on the things you can’t do with automation,” he says.
Mashgin charges about $1,000 per machine per month, while the production cost is lower than competitors. The devices are produced in California, rather than imported from other countries. “We actually use really inexpensive commodity hardware for cameras, and we can publish a site in 15 minutes and very cheaply,” Srivastava says. In order to be more inclusive of non-banking and poorly connected areas, payment systems in cash dispensers accept and can work without the Internet.
Company booths can be found at Madison Square Garden in New York and Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, among other major squares. You’ll also find them at major airports as well as US Delek stores in Texas. The Palo Alto-based company is the technical self-selection of Compass Group, the world’s largest food service contracting company.