Let's not beat around the bush here: Walmart is getting set to roll out a fleet of robots to help with your shopping needs.
This little gizmo here is a food delivery robot developed by Starship Technologies. You can actually see these things on the streets of some U.S. cities — especially in Silicon Valley.
The retailer came out with a patent for autonomous pollination device — robot bees, basically — to help with crops. It's a cool idea, but it isn't really focused directly on consumers.
With so many Americans doing their grocery shopping at Walmart Supercenters, it only makes sense to have some sort of personal shopping option.
But we're not talking about an actual person to do your shopping for you.
Customers will be able to skip the lines and the hassle and simply pick up their groceries at the appropriately-named Pickup storefront that will be tacked onto existing Walmart stores.
Now let's get to the robots!
Recently announced in a Walmart press release, Alphabot will work in concert with a personal shopper associate who will take online orders and then point the robot in the right direction.
They're purpose-built to navigate each store's vast inventory system, find and pick up the desired groceries, and add them to a customer's order.
Functioning as little carts, Alphabot is designed to free up employees to focus more on selling products rather than retrieving them.
On one hand, it's cool tech that makes things more convenient. On the other, it's sure to eliminate jobs in areas where Walmart is often the biggest employer. We've seen it before.
Pretty soon! The system is currently being installed at a Walmart supercenter in Salem, New Hampshire as part of a re-grand opening. There's no set date, aside from "by the end of the year."
In many cases, these pickup sections will add entirely new sections to each store. At the Salem location, this will create a 20,000 square-foot extension.
More and more, tasks that can be automated are being automated, showing that artificial intelligence is well-suited to fulfilling a customer's orders.
This means there's no guarantee it'll be rolled out nationwide, but it's a clear sign that the retailer wants to incorporate more and more automation into its more than 4,000 U.S. stores.