Walmart's Shelf-Scanning Robots Test Success
BENTONVILLE, AR – The future is upon us–gadgets and gizmos a plenty now roaming the grocery aisles! With more and more companies looking to smooth out error and maximize employees’ time, Walmart joins stores like Giant Foods by testing out shelf-scanning robots in more than 50 stores.
“From our perspective, when you’re doing things like this, you’re trying to improve your service to your customers and trying to make things simpler and easier for your associates at the same time,” said Walmart Vice President of Central Operations John Crecelius, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Initially tested in Pennsylvania, the 50-store trial stems from a partnership with California-based Bossa Nova Robotics, who began designing the fully-autonomous bots five years ago. With 3D imagining and mapping, the robots can move into action after receiving a “mission” to check stock levels, pricing, and misplaced items, collecting data on minimizing time and error. The bots are also capable of dodging obstacles and retuning later if their path is completely blocked.
And for those a little bit wary about encountering artificial intelligence during your morning errands, don’t worry, because a technician will be on hand at all times should the robots implement a takeover (kidding).
But, the new bot employees aren’t without flaw. “It’s still really all about the A to Z process of capturing data, analyzing data, creating actions, and then taking actions,” Bossa Nova Robotics Chief Business Officer Martin Hitch said. “Within that, we’re good at doing a part of it, and we’re terrible at doing a part of it. When it comes to picking the product up, the robot has no arms. That’s a really difficult science, and it’s a slow, slow science. We know that the store associates will always be better at that.”
The robots are designed to help workers with customer service and get to the task of filling empty shelves, which the company doesn’t see ending any time soon, given the difficulty the robots still have with grabbing objects. According to endgadget, Walmart stresses that the robots are there to supplement humans, not replace them, and to eliminate error and the expenses that go with it.
There are no current plans to introduce the robots to additional stores, so if you’re still not sold, you probably won't come face to face with the bots anytime soon.
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