Get ready for robots to move out of the shadows of company warehouses and into the fluorescent glow of retail stores. Walmart announced today that it is bringing shelf-scanning robots to 50 of its U.S. locations as a way to handle tasks like identifying when items are out of stock, locating incorrect prices, and detecting wrong or missing labels.
The approximately two-foot-tall machines use cameras to scan shelves as they move down each aisle. If they find something out of place, they alert an employee. By ensuring that all of the items are in stock on the shelves, the robots will help stores cut down on missed opportunities to make a sale. They will also update a store's inventory online to reflect what is on the shelves.
Jeremy King, chief technology officer for Walmart U.S. and e-commerce, told Reuters that the robots are 50 percent more productive than their human counterparts and can scan shelves significantly more accurately and three times faster. The introduction of these robots will be an additional resource for stores, not a replacement for employees, he said, so it will not affect employment numbers in stores.
Of late, Walmart has shown many signs of embracing emerging technology to keep up with tough competition in the retail sector. As we've previously noted, the company plans to allow shopping in virtual reality and is teaming up with Google to use AI to compete with Amazon.