Walmart is turning to roaming robots to keep its shelves stocked. The pilot program in Chicago is being tested in at least 40 retail stores. The robots, measuring about 2 feet in size and equipped with a scanning camera tower, cruise the aisles and analyze current shelf stock. The robotic store minions can even make note of items that might have been incorrectly placed by customers or other, say more organic, workers.
According to Chief technology Officer Jeremy King, the robots are 50 percent more productive and can manage to significantly improve item accuracy. Not only that, but the robots can also scan a shelf three times faster than a human. As King also says,
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…
The robots do seem to like it, and they can monitor the shelves more often than the typical twice a week schedule of current workers. The increased update of out of stock items translate to more profit for the massive retailer, since empty shelves often mean missed sales.
There is no word yet on if the system will be rolling out nationwide, but don’t be surprised to find a roaming robotic scanner at a Walmart near you soon. In fact, if this works out, I would not be a bit surprised to find that the current process for the cart pick for the curbside service pickup (you’ve probably seen their carts at Krogers and other chains) becomes automated thanks to a similar, albeit robotic hand equipped, system.