Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Tue June 8 2021 10:33:08

eBay Patents a Robo Seller

By: Ina Steiner

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eBay thinks a robot can do your job - introducing the Robo Seller. eBay filed a patent for an "Auto posting system" that would perform much of the tedious selling chores required to list on its platform, as the patent abstract describes:

"The disclosed technologies include a robotic selling assistant that receives an item from a seller, automatically generates a posting describing the item for sale, stores the item until it is sold, and delivers or sends the item out for delivery."

The item would be placed in a compartment that uses one or more sensors to identify the item, retrieve supplemental information about the item, and take pictures of the item for inclusion in the posting. 

eBay imagines that such a system would result in people listing more items on its site rather than keeping them in storage or throwing them away due to the tedious nature of listing them. 

eBay also imagines the technology could solve another problem it described: "low quality postings can often depress prices, leaving the seller and the online sales platform worse off."

In an excerpt from the patent, eBay stated: "creating a posting that lists an item for sale requires describing the item, taking pictures of the item, identifying the manufacturer, model, and production year, evaluating the condition of the item, and estimating shipping costs. These tasks are particularly burdensome to individual sellers and sellers of used items, as the time and expense cannot be recouped with high volume sales. Other challenges to online sales include storing items until they are sold, determining how to package items, and transporting the packaged items to a delivery service."

So how would a non-human be able to take on the these tasks?

The robotic selling assistant might have cameras, sensors, a robotic arm, a microphone, and a scale. The "robot-seller" could use such features to capture information to help create an accurate listing and to safely package the item. For example:

- A microphone may be used to determine if an item rattles unexpectedly when moved (to determine whether an item has been damaged prior to receipt).

- A sensor that measures the intensity of light, in combination with a camera, may be used to determine if an item is scuffed or dirty.

The Robo Seller might even snitch on their human overlords! "If the robotic selling assistant determines the seller has intentionally mis-described the item, the robotic selling assistant may alert the online sales platform of potentially fraudulent activity."

You can find the patent on the USPTO government website. We can't wait to hear what sellers (the human ones) think.

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Readers Comments

Perminate Link for eBay Patents a Robo Seller   eBay Patents a Robo Seller

This user has validated their user name. by: epuise

Thu Jun 10 09:08:48 2021

The REASON a Seller won't list an item is LOW PROFIT... If the TOTAL that THE BUYER wants to PAY is $25, and fees take up to $4.00, and postage takes $15.00, that leaves $6.00 for COGS and LABOR... Plus, the RISK of a SNAD... We don't need a Robot... We need lower postage, more visibility.

Perminate Link for eBay Patents a Robo Seller   eBay Patents a Robo Seller

This user has validated their user name. by: epuise

Thu Jun 10 09:16:51 2021

LOL... Thx for the chuckle !

@Eagle
Thu Jun 10 00:14:58 2021
Wonder if selling baby rattles would cause the bot to blow a fuse?

Perminate Link for eBay Patents a Robo Seller   eBay Patents a Robo Seller

This user has validated their user name. by: toolguy

Thu Jun 10 10:35:10 2021

Now all eBay needs are some "robo buyers"

Here we go again with the 30 day hold for a return, this crap is getting old real quick. . .

Perminate Link for eBay Patents a Robo Seller   eBay Patents a Robo Seller

by: Docinmd This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jun 10 12:58:11 2021

As a former patent researcher in the 1970s, I am amazed that this was issued as a patent. It's too damn broad and utilizes a series of processes and equipment that already exist to accomplish the task. This is likely to be challenged in court, probably by ''the big river''.

I suspect the company is setting up the stage where they try to control the entire process and try to make it impossible for anyone to process a listing unless they have bought/rented the software [and possibly a physical machine] that does the work.

This process they describe will work for items with a barcode, in original sealed boxes, or if no box exists or is open, the item matches exactly with the manufacturer's photo/weight/size.

But with OOAK, antique, fine art, or used items where there is no matching manufacture info, THIS AIN'T GONNA WORK!

Lets imagine a case where an artist creates 100 copies of a piece of their own art, perhaps it's a silk screen print. And the artist then signs the work in pencil. We all know the artist's signature will vary with each signature. So this system would have to recognize that lines on the print are not part of the print but are the signature, it was done in pencil, not pen, and understand signatures vary, AND STILL BE ABLE TO DETECT A FORGERY. Yeah, right.

I sell vintage antiques, especially toys. Toys get played with, some of them are played with to the point they are missing parts, have plenty of corroded surfaces,  and many toy companies [Especially Marx] had multiple versions of a single toy. Let's look at Marx play sets as an example. Marx was notorious in substituting  various little pieces in the sets. So how will this system be able to process a ''Marx Civil War'' play set, of which there are about 15 different box versions alone, and individual parts & pieces have varying colors, depending on what year/version the set was created. Plus it needs to know that  another company produced the same basic set pieces about 20 years ago, using the original molds.

The amount of stored info required to be available to the system, to deduce what is genuine or a fraud, just for this playset alone, is mind boggling. And each time someone discovers another variant for the playset, how does the system process the new knowledge? Who will be the gatekeeper for the new version, to determine if it's an original 1958 version, or a 2021 clone?

Using this playset as an example, how does one determine if the 161 individual parts in the playset are correct? Will the system require that all parts to the playset be laid out in an exact sequence for the ''overall'' photo? Or require that each piece or figure be photographed individually?

I have in my collection, an original 1960 Marx Civil War playset. It's never been played with, and I found it in a long closed toy store. Inside I found an original Marx bag marked ''Indians'', and there was no bag marked ''Union soldiers''. Somebody at the Moundsville, WV assembly point, put the wrong bag inside the box. How would the ebay automated system know this was a special listing, with a value probably 8 to 10 times the typical Marx Civil War set. It won't, so ebay will not allow it's listing.

Even with the current exponential rate of technology, I can't see this process/equipment being accurate in trying to decipher and understand anything other than mass-produced items, still in the original packaging, with barcodes attached.

It's going to take another 10 years for a serious technology company to figure it out, and at least 30 years if ebay tries to do it in-house.

I see this as an end-run for ebay, to claim patent infringement for any other start-up companies, who offer listing products/systems similar to what ebay offers.  

Perminate Link for eBay Patents a Robo Seller   eBay Patents a Robo Seller

by: Silver Ice King This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jun 10 13:59:37 2021

@Docinmd

All this is being done as it is quarter end and Ebay is once again pulling out all the stops to try and show that their stock is worth more than it is currently trading at as I am sure they are once again not going to show anywhere near the growth that all of the other ecommerce sites appear to be showing.  They also did not say that it was approved, just filed and if you are right about things this is probably the last anybody will hear about it as it really is nothing more than another desperate move to try and sidetrack investors from looking to close at their quarterly results.

Perminate Link for eBay Patents a Robo Seller   eBay Patents a Robo Seller

by: OnlyPollyPocket This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jun 10 17:18:01 2021

Every time I think ebay has become as stupid as they can, they prove me wrong!  

Spending resources on yet another future fail when they should be fixing the basics of ebay.

Perminate Link for eBay Patents a Robo Seller   eBay Patents a Robo Seller

by: Nothingnewecrater This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jun 10 17:27:31 2021

ebay is no longer relevant to me. It's comical watching them keep shooting themselves in the foot at ever turn. I use them if I come across something that I know will sell in the first 5 min. Other then that you get low ball offers. Or no offers and sales at all.

Perminate Link for eBay Patents a Robo Seller   eBay Patents a Robo Seller

by: aris 2 This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jun 10 22:09:32 2021

In today's news:

1) A GOP Rep suggests changing the orbit of the moon to combat climate change.

2) Dr. Tenpenny, a physician has claimed that Covid vaccines will make you a magnet and will cause ''metal keys to stick to your body''

3) Ebay patents a 'robo-seller'.

Fits right in.

Perminate Link for eBay Patents a Robo Seller   eBay Patents a Robo Seller

by: ebayout This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jun 11 17:42:47 2021

The simple minded genii at ebay can't grasp simple.
ebay is like baseball.
You hit the the ball, you catch the ball, you throw the ball.
Some things can't be improved.
Modification is not always improvement.
So...if an ebay genii is tuned in...prove me wrong.

Perminate Link for eBay Patents a Robo Seller   eBay Patents a Robo Seller

This user has validated their user name. by: Bill

Sat Jun 12 01:59:05 2021

eBay is run by a bunch of derelict drunks that boozing it up at Walkers West

Perminate Link for eBay Patents a Robo Seller   eBay Patents a Robo Seller

by: toastedmutt This user has validated their user name.

Sat Jun 12 08:57:28 2021

Might help reduce the counterfeit electronics, watches, jewelry, and designer knockoffs listed on the site if eBay requires certain items to be listed only through a robo program.  Of course that would land them in court and involve them with a government oversight investigation.  (Not a bad idea at that).  

Then again, it won't be a less expensive means of selling and would probably inflate prices thus making the marketplace even less consumer friendly.  Higher fees, higher selling prices to cover the cost, less profit for sellers in order to be competitive.      

Perminate Link for eBay Patents a Robo Seller   eBay Patents a Robo Seller

by: Nothingnewecrater This user has validated their user name.

Sun Jun 13 10:53:42 2021

All I got is Hahahaha. It's even gotten to the point of wasted energy commenting on all their stupid Unresearched ideas.

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