Walmart moving toward AI technology and robots

Walmart moving toward AI technology and robots

Walmart announced in late October they are testing automated shelf-scanning robots in 50 stores and were careful to note these robots will not replace human employees. As they state in their own video release they are “combining the passion of our people with the power of technology” to free up more time for the associates to serve customers and fill orders.

(Link to Walmart Robot video)

AI and automation technology is finding its way deeper into retail distribution with self-scanning checkouts, apps and services for delivery of groceries, and Amazon’s army of robotic warehouse merchandise movers becoming more the norm. The move to automation appears to be led by the CPG manufacturers and retailers looking to speed up their online sales and delivery.

Front-of-store robotics is a bit more recent trend but Walmart is not the first to test shelf-scanning robots. Consumers may see robots in stores like Target, Schnucks Markets (St. Louis, MO) and Giant Food Store in Lower Paxton Township, PA, as they are testing similar shelf-scanning technology, although in far fewer stores.

The Walmart robots are about 2-feet (0.61-meter) tall and fitted with cameras that scan shelving as they pass by to check inventory, identify any missing or misplaced items, and to review pricing and labeling accuracy. Data is then given to store associates who replace inventory or make any corrections. The autonomous robots come equipped with 3D-imaging technology to help avoid obstacles and presumably customers.

Walmart’s 50-store commitment is a much larger test of the technology and one can presume, if successful, shoppers will see more robots in the aisles changing the in-store shopping experience forever.


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