Last year, Walmart had in-store robots installed at nearly 1,500 locations. Now, despite creeping out customers and making human counterparts feel uneasy, Walmart is rolling out robot workers in 650 new stores.
According to Bloomberg, the new robots are shelf-scanners that alert human employees when items are out of stock. According to the IHL Group, out-of-stock items cost retailers about $1 trillion each year.
The robots are designed by Boss Nova Robotics, a company based out of San Francisco. They're outfitted with 15 cameras and simply roam the aisles looking for empty shelves.
With the addition, Walmart now has 1,000 shelf-scanning robots in service. However, the company also has robots scrubbing floors, unloading trucks and fulfilling online orders.
According to Bossa Nova, the robots allow retailers to redesign store operations, from product flow to replenishment. The robots scan the shelves and use AI to recognize everything on the shelf, from prices and labels to products. What's interesting is that they not only know when something is out-of-stock, but also misplaced. Soon, you’ll no longer have to ask an employee if they "have any in back" only to have them tell you that they only have one left somewhere in the store.
The robots can also make sure that the tag on the shelf matches the price in the system.
According to Walmart, embracing automation is key if the retailer plans to keep up with Amazon.
Walmart now operates 4,750 stores in the U.S. and it's likely that robot workers will be rolled out in each location in various roles.
I mean, I get it. If you're a customer, you might be perturbed by a passing robot, but I have a feeling that you would be more mad if you came all the way to the store and the one thing you're looking for is sold out.