If asked what the next step in Walmart’s evolution might be, few people would say advanced artificial intelligence. And yet, the superstore has announced it is experimenting with some new robotic employees who customers might come in contact with if they visit certain locations.
The robots, designed by a company called Bossa Nova, can be found at 50 stores nationwide as part of a special test run. They are responsible for checking inventory and pricing in the store’s aisles. If something needs to be restocked or is incorrectly labeled, the Bossa Nova sends a message to the store’s human employees.
Like similar robots being tested at Target and Lowe’s, Walmart is using the Bossa Novas for tasks “that are repeatable, predictable and manual, like scanning shelves for out-of-stock items, incorrect prices and wrong or missing labels.”
The Bossa Novas also help with warehouse work, out of sight from the customers.
this and self-service checkouts aint good for jobs— ☯️ Diogenes ❄️ #NHSLove ? (@NorthernCynic3) June 23, 2018
Everyone needs to know a human 'fronted' the products on those shelves, so this is still a lab experiment with controlled conditions.— Steven 'Roback' Marlow (@sd_marlow) June 29, 2018
According to CNBC, Bossa Nova has received $29 million in investments and is very interested in expanding the presence of their robots throughout the country. They claim their robots “can work three times faster than humans and be up to twice as accurate.”
But the robots have an arch-nemesis: teenagers. Bossa Nova CBO Martin Hitch told attendees of a San Francisco tech conference that while young children are very respectful of the robot and adults see them as amusing entertainment, teens can be crueler. He commented in Fortune:
We’ve been hit with shopping bags. We’ve been deliberately kicked.
Those poor, innocent bots!
The next time you go to Walmart, you may just see an AI roaming the aisles. If so, resist the urge to kick it—droids deserve your respect!