Wal-Mart is going high-tech when it comes to keeping its shelves stocked and prices right.
The retail giant will introduce robots to do such work in 50 stores. Brian Heater of TechCrunch writes:
Any automation evangelist will tell you that the goal of industrial robotics is to replace work that’s “dull, dirty and dangerous.” As someone who’s worked a fair number of retail gigs, I can tell you that inventory falls squarely into the first category. Walmart employees likely won’t miss out on that bit as the mega-retailer begins rolling out shelf-scanning robots to more than 50 stores across the U.S.
The two-foot tall robots are pretty innocuous looking — they’re basically rolling gray boxes with a large arm up top that sports on-board cameras. The arm scans the shelves, looking for sold out, missing or misplaced items. It’s also able to identify when product is priced incorrectly. That information is then sent to a human coworker, whose job it is to re-stock, re-price or re-order.
Jeremy King, chief technology officer for Walmart U.S. and e-commerce, tells Reuters the robots are meant to supplement, not replace, people.“If you are running up and down the aisle and you want to decide if we are out of Cheerios or not, a human doesn’t do that job very well, and they don’t like it,” he says.
Heater, of TechCrunch, writes that Walmart’s robots are a step to competing with retailing’s tech giant:
Of course, single purpose robots are generally not equipped to replace humans altogether, but Walmart is certainly making a big push to embrace technology on a much larger scale, as it attempts to stay competitive with the 800-pound online gorilla that is Amazon. As we noted a recently, the company has been buying up startups as a brisk pace, and this move echoes the competition’s big push when it transformed Kiva Systems into Amazon Robotics.