Sure, big-box hardware store Lowe’s has a customer service robot that still won’t keep you from hating your partner, but supermarket chain Schnucks, based in St. Louis, is about to put robots to work in a different job. In three stores, it will send a robot down the aisles three times a day to check shelves and find out which products need to be restocked.
A robot that actually restocks the shelves would be an interesting use of technology, and maybe that’s next. For now, though, Schnucks will be deploying Tally, a robot that looks unnervingly like a tower fan and will scan store aisles for stock levels and maybe even pricing errors.
Want to see it in action? Here’s a video from the company that created the robots, Simbe Robotics.
The robots have been deployed in a few retailers, including a trial at Target. (There’s no word on whether they’re able to flag instances of Target Math, or items that cost more when you buy larger quantities.)
The chain will bring in students from Washington University to learn from the robot, too, holding a hackathon to find new uses for the data that the robot gathers from store shelves.
“We’re starting Tally’s pilot with a focus on in-stock position, but we’re hopeful that Tally may open up a world of other possibilities with the shelf data it collects,” the grocery chain’s VP of information technology for infrastructure said in a statement.
Information from the shelves could be shared with suppliers and vendors, or other uses that no one has thought of yet, since the idea of having an autonomous shelf-scanning robot patrolling a store is a relatively new one.
(via St. Louis Post-Dispatch)