Would ‘driverless’ carts enhance shopping in stores?
Walmart is testing a robotic shopping cart capable of helping customers shop, check out and even motor out to the parking lot without being pushed by a human.
At the Bloomberg Technology conference last week, Wendy Roberts, CEO of Five Elements Robotics, acknowledged that her company is working on a project with the “world’s largest retailer” that was later confirmed to be Walmart.
Last December, Five Elements Robotics introduced Budgee, “the friendly robot that follows you and carries your things.” Budgee can follow its owner via a transceiver that the owner carries or wears. The cart weighs 22 pounds, can carry up to 50 pounds, and folds up for easy transportation and storage.
The Walmart cart prototype presumably would scan a customer’s shopping list and then take them on the best route to pick up merchandise around the store, although exact details aren’t being revealed.
Wrote Will Knight, senior editor, AI, for MIT Technology Review, “While robot shopping carts might be a little unnecessary, it makes a lot of sense for Walmart to try to understand how automation may disrupt its business just as much as e-commerce already has.”
At retail, advanced robotics have largely been tapped to help warehouse workers perform repetitive tasks such as goods delivery, pick and pack, and surveying. In early June, Walmart confirmed plans to test the use of flying drones to handle inventory at its warehouses with an eye to potentially using them for inventory checks in-store.
The tech-cart experiment comes amidst the hype around driverless cars, even as consumers remain skeptical. According to a recent survey by the American Automobile Association, 75 percent of drivers are afraid to get into a fully automated vehicle due to safety concerns. Some, particularly men, feel such cars would “take the fun out of driving.” Like other surveys, younger generations were found to be more open to trying them than older ones.
- Wal-Mart Experimenting with Roboting Shopping Carts for Stores – Bloomberg
- Report: Wal-Mart checking out robotic shopping cart – Retail Dive
- Forget driverless cars, Walmart is testing smart shopping carts that can navigate the aisles and find items on your list – Daily Mail
- Walmart Considers Robotic Shopping Carts for Stores – Sourcing Journal
- Walmart’s Robotic Shopping Carts Are the Latest Sign That Automation Is Eating Commerce – Technology Review
- Budgee The Robot That Is Rocking The World, Is Now Appearing In Homes Near You – Five Elements Robotics
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Would driverless shopping carts enhance the shopping experience in a store like Walmart? Do you expect consumers to have reservations similar to those expressed about driverless cars?