Walmart shelves shelf-scanning robots because humans are sufficient (for now)
The humans have won.
For a couple of years now, Walmart has been using robots in select stores to help with inventory management. Basically, these robots would roam the floors, scan shelves, and help stores keep up with inventory. When the robots would notice near-empty shelves, it would alert the store and new products could be ordered or restocked.
The robots were supplied by Bossa Nova Robotics, but now, according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal, that partnership is ending and Walmart will be moving back to using human employees for shelf monitoring and inventory tracking.
Part of this reason is due to COVID-19. More people are skipping the store and, instead, shopping online for delivery and pickup options. This means that more employees are already in the aisles, collecting items for online orders, and can note inventory issues while doing that, skipping the whole six-foot-robot thing.
While the move makes sense for Walmart, TechCrunch notes that this has been a tough hit for Bossa Nova, who has now laid off 50% of its workforce. While there has been no confirmation that the two are related (Bossa Nova notes that COVID-19 has had a big effect on the company), it’s hard to not see the two announcements being related, at least at some level.
So, at least for the immediate future, humans have again won in the war against the robots.
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