Employees at Giant Food Stores in the U.S have been introduced to a new colleagues recently. The supermarket chain announced that it had ‘hired’ robots in all their stores that will monitor the aisles for any spillages. Marty is a tall wheeled robot that can move around and use image capturing technology to identify spills and other hazards and alert staff and shoppers to them by announcing them over the public address system.
The plan is to roll out the robots across all stores following a pilot program that tested Marty in two Pennsylvanian stores last year. Nicholas Bertram, President of Giant Food Stores said that bringing robotics and AI from a research lab to the sales floor had been a very exciting journey, and that they were thrilled by the customer response in the pilot stores
Marty is equipped with sensors to help him avoid collisions with shelves or people. It is hoped that the googly-eyed robot will allow humans to spend more time with customers. Giant Food Stores stated that the introduction of the robots wasn’t meant to replace human workers but rather to complement them. The robots should be rolled out across all stores by the middle of the year.
In addition to spotting spill, Marty can scan shelves for out of date items. If any are found, the robot can generate a report that is sent to appropriate staff. The robot can also check for price discrepancies between ticketed price and barcode price.
Walmart is also introducing robots to all its stores. A step up from Marty, Walmart’s robots will actually be able to clean the floor. They are also testing other kinds of robots that can handle repetitive jobs like the shelf and product scanning. These smart assistants can perform tasks like identifying when items are out of stock, locating incorrect prices, and detecting wrong or missing labels.
Interestingly, the employees of Walmart are the biggest advocates for the robots. Instead of seeing them as a threat to jobs, Walmart employees understand the tasks the robots are doing and appreciate the dull and repetitive tasks being allocated away from themselves.
Surprisingly, human shoppers in stores tend to ignore robots. Expect more and more stores to introduce robotic staff as the technology develops at a rapid pace. Amazon has famously embraced robotic workers inside their warehouses but smarter, more responsive robots are increasingly likely to show up in more retail settings. Different robotics manufacturers are developing robots that can respond to customers’ requests. For example, the Airbot by LG. The elongated bot can provide guidance and advice to customers who approach it and can scan boarding passes and provide answers about things such as flight status and the location of boarding gates.