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MIT Technology Review

The Machines of Walmart Have Had a Banner Year

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It has been Walmart’s year of emerging technologies, and so far, it seems to be paying off.

In 2017, shelf-scanning robots began patrolling the retail giant’s aisles, VR was used for employee training and tested for digital shopping, and Walmart partnered with Google to use AI to bolster online shopping. 

As if that weren’t enough, Recode reported Wednesday that the company is now developing a cashier-less store—sound like anyone we know? (Cough, “Amazon’s Grocery Store Doesn’t Have a Single Checkout,” cough). Referred to as Project Kepler, the technology to create the store is being developed through its startup incubator, Store No. 8.

Investors, at least, seem quite happy with the focus on technological innovation, as Walmart’s shares jumped to an all time high last month after third quarter earnings were published last month.

Of course, the past year has been kind to Amazon and the corporate world in general, so it’s difficult to say whether Walmart’s happy returns are the result of its investments in cutting-edge technology. Many of the moves are, after all, meant to pay dividends down the road, rather than in the short term. The raft of whizz-bang announcements certainly attracted its fair share of headlines, though—so in 2018, it’ll be interesting to see if the company for which the term “big box store” was basically invented has truly pulled off a technological transformation.