The experimental store in Levittown, New York, will be used to test how new technologies could be applied to the shopping experience.
The technology: Walmart’s “Intelligent Retail Lab” store includes cameras that monitor the shelves and aisles, and interactive displays. The initial goal will be to speed up the product inventory and availability process, making it easier for the 100-strong team to know precisely where and when products need to be restocked. Even though it’s a concept store it has more than 30,000 items for sale and is open to the public.
How that works: The store’s cameras must automatically detect products on shelves, and recognize specific items, and when they need restocking. Machine-vision algorithms will be able to detect how ripe bananas are from their color, according to the AP. Workers will get an alert telling them if they need to be restocked. There’s a data center in the store, where all the data collected by sensors and cameras is processed.
The context: Walmart is competing with Amazon, and its tech-filled “Go” stores, to try and modernize the shopping experience. However, not everyone is thrilled about the prospect of cameras tracking everything in stores. By focusing its announcement on how the technology will be used to track produce rather than people, Walmart is trying to sidestep that issue for now.
Update: After publishing, an Amazon spokesperson sent us the following statement: "It is absolutely not true that employees are terminated through an automatic system. We would never dismiss an employee without first ensuring that they had received our fullest support, including dedicated coaching to help them improve and additional training. Since we’re a company that continues to grow, it’s our business objective to ensure long-term career development opportunities for our employees. Similar to many companies, we have performance expectations regardless of whether they are corporate or fulfillment center employees. We support people who do not perform to the levels expected of them with dedicated coaching to help them improve and be successful in their career at Amazon.”
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