Walmart’s new robots resemble portable air conditioners, but they’re much more sophisticated than that. Created by Bossa Nova Robotics, these robots roll around the store and can scan an entire aisle in just 90 seconds, detailed the Sacramento Bee. The robots will conduct inventory, as well as let human employees know to fix mispriced or misplaced merchandise. Fifty robots are in various Walmarts across the country, most recently in California.
The robots are six feet tall and capture two terabytes of data in two minutes, according to Wired. It uses lasers, 2D cameras, and 3D cameras to do its job. Tiffany Wilson, a representative for Walmart, assured people that the robots will not be replacing human employees.
“It’s looking at tasks that are repeatable, predictable…This way, our associates can spend their time focusing on customers and selling merchandise. While the job may change, and the type of work being done may change, robots are not going to replace human contact and human touch.”
Jeremy King, the CTO of Walmart, said that the robots are “50% more efficient than a human doing the same task.” Also, the robots can do the job more often, as currently, human employees only scan the shelves twice a week, according to Business Insider. And although King didn’t say so, we all know that robots don’t call in sick, complain, or get tired.
Customers have mixed reviews about the robots. Some are curious, others don’t care. Some kick it as it rolls around, and another customer worried that “it was going to hit [her] because it kept going my way.” The robot, however, is designed to avoid all obstacles, including customers. Wilson also said that it’s “more about arming our associates so that they’re tech enabled,” according to the Tucson News.
Various workplaces are implementing robots too. For example, Amazon has 100,000 robots that work in the warehouse, and a Sheraton in Los Angeles San Gabriel uses eight robots to deliver linens and towels to guests’ rooms, reported Daily News.
The fear of robots replacing humans has been confirmed by a report by the McKinsey Global Institute. The report estimated 400 million to 800 million human employees will lose their jobs by 2030.
For now, at Walmart, the human employees are still needed, since the robot can only scan shelves, and someone needs to restock the items. However, the introduction of a robot that can restock shelves could displace human workers in the future. And robotics companies are already working on new technologies to create more sophisticated robots. For example, a startup called Kindred is tackling the challenge of creating a robot that can grab objects of various sizes.