Retail roundup: The robots are coming!

A look at how retailers are using automation and robot technology

Walmart is testing shelf-scanning robots in a small number of its U.S. stores. The machines use data and vision technology to find items that are out of stock and missing labels. The retailer has said feedback from customers and sales associates in test markets would guide future use of the technology.

Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba has equipped its warehouse with 60 robots that, according to Business Insider UK, conduct 70% of the work. They can carry up to 500 kilograms and know when it’s time to recharge their batteries. A five-minute charge gives them four to five hours of power.

Ahold USA
Ahold USA is testing a robot named Marty that roams store aisles looking for out-of-stock items or tripping hazards on the floor at its Giant Food Store in Pennsylvania. The data Marty collects is passed on to store associates who can then deal with whatever issue Marty detects. The company said it would expand the pilot to other grocery banners if it’s successful.

Earlier this year it was reported Amazon was experimenting with robot-powered grocery stores that would need just three humans to operate. The robots would retrieve and bag items for shoppers on one floor, with another floor for products shoppers like to touch before buying. The stores could be as big as 40,000 sq. ft. and sell a full range of products from fresh fruit and vegetables, to eggs and meat, beer and wines.

British online supermarket Ocado tested an electric, self-driving delivery van called CargoPod in south-east London last summer. The vehicle is equipped with eight compartments that can carry a total weight of 128kg, and is intended for short journeys or last minute deliveries within urban centres.