By David Dorf-Oracle on Jan 06, 2015
I thought it fitting to kick the new year off with a futuristic topic, and what more futuristic than robots? Lowe's hit the news back in October with their OSHbots, a robot deployed in their Orchard Supply Hardware store in San Jose, CA. As a sales assistant, the robot provides customers with product and inventory information using voice response, much like Siri. It navigates the store using collision avoidance technologies like its 3D camera.
Similarly, an Aloft hotel in Cupertino, CA deployed a robot that navigates the hotel and delivers items to rooms when requested by guests. Need extra towels or perhaps another pillow? SaviOne, your robotic bellhop, will deliver it to your door. At Carnegie Mellon, inventory counts in the bookstore are handed by AndyVision, an autonomous robot that scans shelves looking for out-of-stock situations.
At around $150,000 per robot, these solutions are unlikely to be cost-effective yet, but as the technology matures and demand increases costs are bound to come down. A mix of humans and robots in stores doesn't seem so impossible now, as voice and vision technology continues to evolve. But we're still in the novelty phase with mainstream adoption several years off. In the meantime, look for small, innovative examples popping up in California and Japan.