Walmart Experiments with In-Store Robots
Bossa Nova, the company that builds the shelf-scanning robots for Walmart, is still deep in the design science that could one day make robots a part of the everyday retail experience.
Making in-store robots that don’t disrupt the customer experience requires many tweaks to the design and quite a bit of trial and error. Bossa Nova’s cofounder discussed some of the problems and solutions that have come up, likening the situation with robots today to that of the automobile in the early days of its design. While the streets today are built to accommodate cars, with pedestrians and cyclists as an afterthought, Bossa Nova and Walmart intend to keep stores built for people, with the robot working around them and not the other way around.
“What we think is very valuable to us is we have a life-sized laboratory where hopefully millions of people will be seeing our robot,” says Sarjoun Skaff, CTO and cofounder at Bossa Nova, the company behind Walmart’s shelf scanners. “It’s a very valuable lab for researchers to experiment with human-robot interaction concepts. The scale allows you to get to the truth faster.”