Will all the big retail stores, such as Walmart in the U.S., become filled with robots and autonomous systems in the not-so-distant future? All signs point to yes, and in fact that future might arrive a lot sooner than you think.
If you ask the biggest names in U.S. retail right now about what the future might hold for them and their industries, you are likely to get a bunch of varied responses. After all, not all of them target the same sets of customers, and there are many different factors at play in terms of the way they operate their businesses.
But one thing that many of these retail giants seem to agree on is that robotics and automation will play a huge role in the operation of retail stores in the future. As a matter of fact, several of the largest names in the industry have already made big bets on this becoming a reality – so much so that they’ve started running experiments of their own instead of waiting for other experts to tell them whether moving forward with that assumption is a good idea or not.
For example, online retail giant Amazon announced that it will start work on a new retail concept called Amazon Go, which relies on state-of-the-art sensors and cameras to track in-store shoppers and then give them exactly what they need before taking their payments. It will accomplish all of this without the need to employ any real-life store representatives. Now, it appears that Walmart, too, has plans of riding the wave of retail robots and autonomous systems in stores.
Walmart’s plan for the future is quite simple and straightforward, as relayed through a recent exclusive report on Recode.net. The company owns a startup incubator, called Store. No. 8, which is currently working on a so-called under-the-radar project, known simply as Project Kepler. It is reportedly an effort to “re-imagine the in-store shopping experience” using high-tech new solutions, such as computer vision, among others.
Exactly how Walmart sees its retail stores in the future is still a mystery. However, Recode‘s sources say that Project Kepler has former Jet.com co-founder and chief technology officer Mike Hanrahan at the helm. And there is currently one Project Kepler job listing that is looking for a “computer vision engineer” – a person whose role will involve developing a “best-in-class consumer experience in the physical retail space.” It’s certainly something grand that’s worth looking forward to, if only to see the overall concept from top to bottom.
According to the exclusive report about Project Kepler, Walmart’s vision is for a system that is similar to the one used in Amazon Go, which has the potential to eliminate the need for thousands of cashiers to stand at their usual posts. Instead, technology will take their place, taking care of all in-store customers from store entry to store exit.
In total, Walmart has over two million employees worldwide, and it is said that the completion of Project Kepler will eventually result in the elimination of many of these positions. For now, of course, nothing about any of this is final yet. Except, perhaps, for the sinking feeling that the robot and automation systems takeover that will happen to retail stores is all but inevitable. Walmart has declined to comment.
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