Grocery Shopping Robots Are Coming To Walmart, And The Future Is Here

Diply 13 Aug 2018

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.

For those who fear the inevitable robot uprising, it's terrible news. But for those who just want their grocery shopping to be a little simpler, it's actually pretty cool.

This isn't the first time robots have helped us with food.

Wikimedia Commons | Christopher Down

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.

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Heck, this isn't even Walmart's first foray into the robotic realm.

Brookstone | Brookstone

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.

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Walmart's latest move is toward personalized robot shoppers.

Wikimedia Commons | UpstateNYer

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.

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The new service will take advantage of a new Walmart storefront.

Walmart | Walmart

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!

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The system is called Alphabot.

Walmart | Walmart

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.

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Now for the bad news: these aren't big, humanoid robots.

YouTube | Walmart

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.

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The robots will be taking over some of the most mundane tasks in retail.

YouTube | Walmart

Functioning as little carts, Alphabot is designed to free up employees to focus more on selling products rather than retrieving them.

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It's hard to know how this will be received by the general public.

Wikimedia Commons | Corey Coyle

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.

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When will the rollout happen?

Walmart | Walmart

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."

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Customers will be alerted to the new service by bright orange "pickup towers."

Walmart | Walmart

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.

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It's just another sign of the changing face of retail.

Wikimedia Commons | Bill McChesney

More and more, tasks that can be automated are being automated, showing that artificial intelligence is well-suited to fulfilling a customer's orders.

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Walmart refers to Alphabot as a "small pilot".

Giphy | Giphy

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.

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