Robots Hit Retailing

US retailing giant Walmart recently tested an autonomous floor scrubbing machine during the night shift at several stores. The robotic cleaner resembles typical ride-on scrubbers, but employs numerous cameras, sensors, Lidar and navigational algorithms to operate without a driver. California’s Brain Corp produces technology for such machines, and has partnered with Michigan manufacturer International Cleaning Equipment (ICE). While LinkedIn reported that an anonymous employee at a Walmart test store claimed to have seen an ICE logo on the robot scrubber, Brain Corp refuses to confirm use of its EMMA system in the test. Their website describes a scrubber that operates independently after training by a driver. It can avoid people and objects while navigating its route, and sends an SOS if it becomes stuck. While Walmart says it wants to automate repetitive tasks to free personnel for more challenging work, some employees fear job reductions. In related news, The Verge reports that Walmart is also placing shelf-scanning bots in stores to check prices and inventory.

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