Researchers Develop Robot That Can Work Retail

Can’t find what you’re looking for at your local store? Have you tried asking a robot?

It sounds like science fiction, but it’s not: Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a robot that can work at retail stores.

It’s all part of a project called AndyVision, currently in use at the Carnegie Mellon University campus store. The technology consists of a big digital sign that provides an instant three-dimensional view of the store’s layout, as well as a robot that navigates the store, scanning the shelves to see what items are out of stock.

“The idea is to transform the future of retail,” Priya Narasimham, associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University, says in a video posted by the University’s Next-Gen Retail project. “The idea was born out of me being a shopper. I go to a lot of stores and find it very difficult to find the items I want, and sometimes I leave the store if I don’t find the product I want. And at the same time you get to understand that a lot of store staff don’t quite understand where all the items are either. You see a crying need for there to be real-time store information in everyone’s hands.”

The robots won’t replace traditional sales staff, the researchers note, but can help with tasks like folding products, stocking shelves, helping customers to locate items, and loading purchases into customers’ cars. This would free associates “to focus on providing more attentive customer service,” the university says.

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