As of late 2017, San Francisco-based Bossa Nova had robots scanning the shelves of 50 Walmart locations across the USA.
Recently, they reported that the staff love the robots, giving them name tags and defending the robots like fellow employees. The shoppers, on the other hand, react to the robots in one of “two different extremes. One of them is natural curiosity. They are going to go ask what it does, and why. When a robot is first deployed, we have a chaperone in the store to answer those questions. But at least 50 percent completely ignore it like it is any other device, which surprised us.” Perhaps those reactions have something to do with the cues the robot uses when interacting with humans? “We spent a lot of time researching the right way for the robots to interact with humans. …today when our robot moves it emits a sound so it doesn’t surprise people, and it uses light to indicate when people get too close.”
Have you interacted with one of these robot employees at Walmart? If so, what did you think of it? Do you have any suggestions or ideas for improving the human-robot interaction? Does early adoption of these robots in-store change your opinion of Walmart as a retailer? In general, do you have more favorable opinions of companies that embrace emerging technologies sooner?