Walmart is rolling out robots in more than 50 of its US stores, which will be capable of scanning shelves and alert employees when products are running low.
According to Reuters, the 0.6m-high robots use cameras on a tower attached to the main body to scan products; they can then identify missing or misplaced items, and pass that data to employees.
Walmart has been trialling the robots in stores in Arkansas, Pennsylvania and California. The firm has said that they will not replace human workers or affect employee headcount in stores.
CTO Jeremy King said that the robots are about 50 per cent more productive than a human, able to scan shelves more accurately and three times as fast. It is expected that employees will also be happier when robots take over menial tasks like shelf-scanning.
"If you are running up and down the aisle and you want to decide if we are out of Cheerios or not, a human doesn't do that job very well, and they don't like it," said King.
Walmart has been making efforts to digitise its stores, recently installing large ‘pickup towers' that act like self-service kiosks, where customers can collect their online orders. It has also added self-scan checkouts and is testing drones for home delivery, curbside pickup and checking warehouse inventories.
Using robots to keep shelves stocked makes a lot of sense for bricks-and-mortar retailers trying to compete with online giants like Amazon. The majority of consumers who shop in-store, as opposed to online, do so for the instant gratification. If they can't find an item, then they might simply leave without making a purchase.
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