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A New Type of Employee: Robots Are Being Introduced in Grocery Stores

Walmart's shelf scanning robot.

A New Type of Employee: Robots Are Being Introduced in Grocery Stores

By: Nima Rajan

Posted on: in News | Food News

Major grocery stores in the US, as well as international chains, are introducing robots with the ability to carry out certain employee tasks and services. With major grocery store chains like Walmart, Amazon, Schnucks and Moscow-based Lenta rolling out robot employees, the grocery industry is set to take a turn.

Last month, Walmart initiated the largest test of in-store robots when they began trailing shelf-scanning robots in 50 US stores. These machines are able to check inventory levels, pricing and identify misplaced items. The company plans on using these robots to assist employees rather than replace them. The robots do the tedious work that is prone to human-error while employees handle the customer service side of the system.

“We’re using technology to focus on tasks that are repeatable, predictable and manual, freeing up associates to spend more time doing what they do best: serving you,” the narrator notes in their Walmart’s promotional video.

This summer, midwestern grocery chain Schnucks Markets began testing a three-foot tall grocery robot named Tally. The robot is designed to scan shelves for low inventory and pricing errors. Tally – designed by San Francisco-based Simbe Robotics – was tested in three of Schnucks nearly 100 stores. The results of the test will determine whether the grocer will implement these new robots in all its stores.

Amazon is no stranger to a robot workforce as well. The e-commerce retailer has recently announced it will be launching a checkout-free brick and mortar store. Along with its digitally- enhanced convenience store, Amazon has been using robotic technology in their warehouses for many years. Earlier this year, the web giant was contemplating a two-story automated grocery store where a staff of robots would grab and bag items for customers below. Although plans to build this store have not been finalized, Amazon is constantly looking for new ways to enhance its market space with technology.

The latest in supermarket robot technology comes from Moscow-based grocery chain, Lenta. The grocer has implemented seven interactive “promobots” that have the ability to greet customers, offer in-store promotions, demonstrate new products and recognize regular customers using a facial recognition software.

“We can confidently say that this is the largest implementation of autonomous service robots in retail, at the moment,” Lenta’s director of development, Oleg Kivokurtsev, told The Mirror.

Earlier this year, a promobot used its intelligence to save the life of a little girl in one of the Lenta’s stores. The girl was spotted climbing a bookshelf, which started to tip. Recognising the potential danger, a promobot raced over to hold the book shelf up.

“We are glad that Promobot was on the place at that moment, otherwise, the consequences could be deplorable for the child. We create robots to improve people’s lives,” said Kivokurtsev.

These new innovations can mean a new way to grocery shop for consumers. With robots being incorporated in many aspects of the grocery shopping experience – (introducing even robotic grocery carts -), the grocery industry is slowly quickly being reinvented.


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