Robots will soon help stock shelves at about 50 Walmart stores.
The two-foot tall robots are fitted with cameras to scan aisles and check stock, identifying missing, misplaced, mislabeled and mispriced items. The robots will give that information to employees who will fix the issues.
“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,” chief technology officer for Walmart U.S. and e-commerce, Jeremy King told Reuters.
The robots will be used in an expanded test next month in stores in Arkansas, Pennsylvania and California, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
The robots are more productive and can scan shelves more accurately and faster than human employees, company officials told Reuters.
“If you think about trying to go through a facility with all these different [items] and figure out if your prices are accurate, it can be very time-consuming,” John Crecelius, Walmart’s vice president of central operations, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “From our perspective, when you’re doing things like this you’re trying to improve your service to your customers and trying to make things simpler and easier for your associates at the same time.”
However, the robots will not replace workers.
“Within that, we’re good at doing a part of it, and we’re terrible at doing a part of it. When it comes to picking the product up, the robot has no arms,” said Martin Hitch, chief business officer at Bossa Nova Robotics, the company producing the robots for Walmart. “That’s a really difficult science, and it’s a slow, slow science. We know that the store associates will always be better at that.”