Retail Therapy: A Personal Shopper That’s Not a Person
Retailers explore the value of robots as personal shoppers just in time for the holidays.
If you think the human-robot interactions of HBO’s Westworld are far-fetched—or at least far off into the future—you’re wrong. While the reality of robots today is far less violent than HBO’s vision, robots are poised to become part of everyday human life by way of retail.
That’s right. Retailers today are offering personal shoppers in the form of helpful robots. Not only will Walmart look to provide customers with robotic shopping carts in the near future, but also retailers such as Lowe’s are gearing up to give customers a unique robotic experience.
Lowe’s recently unveiled its LoweBot to eleven San Francisco Bay Area locations in California. LoweBot is a bilingual NAVii autonomous retail service robot created by Fellow Robots. According to Lowe’s, “LoweBot is able to find products in multiple languages and effectively navigate the store.”
Lowe’s, whose locations are often vast with many aisles and products, can help customers find what they are looking for and also free up Lowe’s human employees to apply their expertise in discussions with customers. And with real-time inventory control, LoweBot will help the retailer meet customer demand in the future, according to Lowe’s.
Other forms of robotic help will also be made available in two Bay Area shopping centers. SoftBank’s Pepper has been staffing shopping center since before Thanksgiving. The robot is not quite at the personal shopper level yet, according to its makes, but it will be there to greet customers and help them navigate the retail area.
Robotics Beyond Retail
The present capabilities of robots should not skew the future potential as many innovators around the world are working to create an environment in which humans and robots coexist. Take Japan, for instance. Scientists at Hitachi today are striving to make robotics a helpful part of people’s everyday lives in Japan. Emiew and Ropits are two endeavors that could become how humans cohabitate with robots in the future.
Emiew is a friendly, helper robot designed with AI and speech recognition to offer directions and assistance to humans. And Ropits is a slow-moving, open-air autonomous vehicle developed to help the elderly enjoy outdoor living even after their physical activity has been limited. Inventors at Hitachi hope to get Emiew’s price down to below the cost of a car.