Courtesy of Walmart.com
Robots now roam the aisles at Walmart. And no, that’s not a joke.
People are starting to take notice of a pilot program Walmart kicked off at 50 locations across the United States in October. This program aims to use robots to scan the shelves of the store to see what items are running out of stock. The robots then take the data and automatically add the missing items to an inventory list. The technology can also check for prices, as well as misplaced items throughout the store. (Psst! Learn why grocery stores always place milk in the back of the store.)
The robots don’t look like what you’d expect, though. They sweep the floor like one of those automatic floor cleaners. The bottom half has a round, rectangular shape with a large tower popping out the side. As the robot glides alongside the aisles, the tower will light up as it scans the aisles and collects data. When the robots aren’t scanning, they sit in a recharging station in the store, all made by Bossa Nova Robotics. The robots are powered off until a Walmart employee gives them a “mission” for the day.
“This combination of people and technology is helping make our stores more convenient and easier to shop, ensuring that products are available when our customers want them,” wrote Walmart in a press release.
High-tech advancements in grocery stores is not a new phenomenon. Costco is testing out electronic food court kiosks and Amazon’s opened up a cashier-less mini mart. Though, customers (and even employees) are still skeptical. Walmart seems to understand these fears and has expressed numerous times that the head count for employees will not change. Having a system such as this will only make the staff’s job easier, and will open up time for other tasks for the associates. In return, this means more time helping out the customers and ensuring that products are neat and organized on the shelves.
Having robots roaming the store isn’t the only step Walmart is taking in terms of new technology. Along with having an in-store pickup service (where personal shoppers grab the customer’s items beforehand for easy pickup), Walmart now offers grocery delivery through their app.