Walmart’s Intelligent Retail Lab store runs on AI
A Walmart Neighborhood Market has opened in Levittown, NY to not only test artificial intelligence (AI) in physical settings but witness how such technologies impact the customer and associate experience.
Called the Intelligent Retail Lab (“IRL” for short), the store looks like an Amazon Go on a broader scale, covering over 30,000 items across 50,000 square feet. According to a Walmart release, the sensors, cameras and processors are connected “by enough cabling to scale Mt. Everest five times and enough processing power to download three years’ worth of music (27,000 hours) each second.”
However, the store has manned registers. Instead of supporting cashierless checkout, the technology will initially monitor inventory, shopping carts shortages and cash register lines.
Walmart’s plan is to use the cameras and real-time analytics to automatically trigger out-of-stock notifications to internal apps that alert associates when to restock. The technology will need to recognize the specific product (i.e., distinguishing between one pound or two pounds of ground beef) and compare the quantities on the shelf to future sales demand.
“A Glimpse Into the Future” – Source: Walmart
That’s expected to spare associates from walking the aisles looking for shortages. Other applications being tested are designed to make sure shopping carts are available and registers are open.
Walmart also noted that an AI-driven shopping environment “also raises questions about all the visible technology,” which is intentionally in full view. The store includes a “glass-encased data center bathed in blue glow,” educational kiosks throughout the store, and a Welcome Center up front for a deeper dive into the technology. An interactive wall prompts customers move around to see how AI tracks their body positioning.
Finally, Walmart will see how the more than 100 associates at the store interact with the technology that’s expected to reduce their mundane tasks.
Walmart cautioned that IRL’s focus will be on data-gathering in the near term. Mike Hanrahan, CEO of IRL, said, “There are a lot of shiny objects out there that are doing things we think are unrealistic to scale and probably, long-term, not beneficial for the consumer.”
- Walmart’s New Intelligent Retail Lab Shows a Glimpse into the Future of Retail – Walmart
- Walmart unveils an AI-powered store of the future, now open to the public – TechCrunch
- At Walmart’s Intelligent Retail Lab, the future is here – Supermarket News
- Walmart Rolls Out Futuristic AI-Powered Concept Store, Hoping to Best Amazon Go – Inc.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think of AI’s potential to monitor in-store out-of-stocks, shopping carts shortages and cash register lines? Is making the technology visible to shoppers a smart move, and should tech be more out in the open at regular stores?