Before Hisashi Kanbe in 2013 introduced BakeryScan, the world's first image recognition checkout system designed specifically for bread, it was the job of every bakery worker in Japan to memorize the assorted prices of each baked good — from baguettes back to bagels.

Unlike shrink-wrapped food, whose prices are easy to calculate by scanning barcodes, bread is usually displayed sans packaging because "it sells better that way," said Kanbe, CEO of a Hyogo-based company Brain Co. "But in a store with as many as 100 kinds of bread, it's virtually impossible for inexperienced workers to remember all of their prices."

But with BakeryScan, even novices can handle purchases by placing a tray of bread under a scanner, which identifies every item based on shape and color, calculates the prices and displays the total on a screen — all in just one second, eliminating the need for workers to manually enter prices piece by piece at the cash register.