Walmart Launches Shelf-Scanning Robots Into 50 Stores

More robots are going to work at Walmart.

Not as in greeting shoppers, but more as in using artificial intelligence shelf-scanning technology to track inventory.

Following tests in seven California stores, Walmart is rolling out the robots to 50 stores in Texas, Arkansas, California and Pennsylvania. The robots can scan dozens of aisles in less than an hour.

The robots, from Bossa Nova Robotics, scan shelves for out-of-stock items and use AI and machine learning to identify where stock levels are low, prices are incorrect or labels are missing, according to Walmart. The roaming technology provides near real-time views of what areas of the store need attention.

“It’s another great example of our stores being tech-enabled and people-led,” stated Tara Kaady, store manager for Walmart in Milpitas. “Shelf-scanning technology, along with other innovations that Walmart continues to roll out, helps our associates with repeatable, predictable and manual tasks so that they can focus on serving our customers.”

Consumer acceptance and use of robots in the U.S. has been slower than some other parts of the world, most notably Asia, where many consumers have them in their homes. A side benefit of robots in stores is that consumers will start to get used to seeing them and some of what they can do.

“Walmart understands that customer habits and shopping expectations are changing at an incredibly fast pace and to meet the rapidly changing demands of their customers, they are embracing technology to better allow their associates to serve their customers,” stated Martin Hitch, Bossa Nova chief business officer.

Inventory-checking robots also work at Lowe’s. The NAVii autonomous robot from Fellow Robots can greet customers and lead shoppers to desired products they tell the robot they’re looking for. However, they can excel at tracking inventory. Rather than the robot stopping at each product to scan it as would a human, the machine whizzes along scanning multiple shelves and products on its way by.

The greeters at the entrance of Walmart stores are expected to remain human.

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