US shopping giant Walmart is working on a robot shopping cart that will follow people round in store.
At present there isn’t much news from Walmart itself about the project, nor are there any formal comments from its development partner Five Elements Robotics.
But reports we’ve seen suggest that as well as carrying a shopping load around store, the robots will help people find items, make purchases and more.
A technology innovator
We already know that Walmart is a big fan of working with technologies to change the shopping experience. For example, it offers virtual walkthrough versions of many of its stores, and has experimented with virtual stores. For example, at bus stops in Canada display boards show goods with QR codes which the customer can use to make purchases and organise home delivery.
Five Elements Robotics already makes a robot that carries stuff for you called Budgee (picture above). It’s available for $1,399 right now.
We also know that Five Elements Robotics is working on another robot called DASH which is a ‘retail robotic shopping cart’. DASH is likely to be in prototype at the end of this year and in manufacturing in early 2017.
DASH could well be the basis of the kind of approach that will be taken in Walmart stores. Five Elements Robotics says DASH can map the most effective route through a store, accept shopping lists transferred via a phone, scan items for purchase as they are placed into the cart, and even take payment using services like credit cards, Apple Pay or Google Wallet.
The cart can follow a customer when they leave the store, so that the only time shopping needs to be touched is when it’s loaded into a car. The cart will find its own way ‘home’ to its docking station once shopping is finished. DASH can also learn about a customer’s shopping habits, and display targeted advertising on its screen.
Retailers get revved up on robots
Of course, Walmart isn’t the only retailer to be investigating the use of robotics, with an increasing number seeing the benefit, especially on inventory management.
Speaking at the Internet of Retail conference in February, Tesco CTO Edmond Mesrobian detailed how the retail giant has been trialling the use of both IoT devices and robotics.
Working closely with a robotics company to roll-out RFID-scanning autonomous robots which go up and down the aisles to measures the gaps in the shelves, Mesrobian said that the robots inform staff when to replenish stock.
You might like to read: Tesco checks out with IoT, robotics and AR
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