In a new twist aimed at customer service, Walmart has filed a patent for drones to aid shoppers in stores.
A shopper would use a mobile phone or a device provided by the store to summon a drone, which the consumer could then direct to do a price verification of a product or have the drone provide navigation assistance.
“If, for example, the user has requested navigation assistance to an item selected from a virtual shopping list on the mobile electronic device, the computing device can control the aerial drone to provide navigation assistance to guide the user to the location of the selected item,” states the patent application. (Lowe’s already shows where all its products are located in stores through its mobile app.)
The drone also could provide a visual projection to indicate a path or audio output from the drone to guide the shopper to a product.
The shopper also could instruct the drone to travel to an item whose location is stored in a database to acquire the most up-to-date price stored if the price does not reflect the most recent price change.
Different types of drones with different features, such as display screens and visual projectors, could be deployed to perform different types of tasks associated with providing assistance to a shopper, according to the filing.
Walmart recently rolled out shelf-scanning robots in 50 of its stores. The robots can rapidly move down an aisle and check inventory by scanning shelves on the way.
Aside from the obvious pun of taking customer service to new heights, in-store service by drones is still in the future, along with various other Internet of Things innovations in the works.
Amazon very recently was granted a patent for how consumers could use gestures such as waving their arms, to summon drones to approach to deliver a package, as I wrote about here at the time (Amazon Patents Waving At Drone To Bring A Package).
While some of the ideas in various patents may never come to fruition, they do provide some of the perception of the future that some retailers think may be ahead.
These are patents and patent applications, not products or services.