Retail: robots to conquer outlets

fellowrobots_oshbotPar un curieux hasard de l’actualité, plusieurs annonces importantes relatives à la robotique dans le secteur de la distribution se sont succédé cette semaine. Nestle Japon a ainsi annoncé By a curious coincidence the news, several major announcements regarding robotics in the distribution sector have succeeded this week. Nestle Japan has announced its plan to deploy 1,000 robots Pepper to sing the praises of Nespresso capsules in the country. Yesterday was the US Lowe’s and specializes in DIY Orchard Supply OSHbot who unveiled the sign. Two copies of this telepresence robot that will walk the aisles of the point of sale of San Diego to help the DIY Sunday. A new category of service robot is perhaps being born, the robot vendor.

First major deployments announced in Japan

20 Pepper Aldebaran robots will be deployed by the end of the year by Nestle Japan, with a target of 1,000 outlets equipped in 2015 .

20 Pepper Aldebaran robots will be deployed by the end of the year by Nestle Japan, with a target of 1,000 outlets equipped in 2015 .

Softbank, with the deployment of robots Pepper Aldebaran in 70 of its retail outlets mobile in Japan, showed the way. Aldebaran largest shareholder, Softbank had an interest in demonstrating the value of such a robot in the distribution. With good reason since the process has attracted Nestle. The food giant put on the same Japanese Pepper to convert to the benefits of coffee capsule with 1,000 robots Pepper who will survey the Japanese selling points to offer a Nespresso to otaku.

On the other side of the Pacific, Lowe’s will max out Softbank with a first deployment of robots, but on a small scale. Only one of its outlets Orchard Supply in San Diego will host two robots OSHbot. Much less advanced than Pepper, this robot is a robot with no arms relatively conventional telepresence robots designed by Fellow who has touch screens and cameras. A relatively simple robot, able to move the shelves, but also to connect the customer with a human seller via videoconference if the client need a real expert DIY advice.

A robot in a point of sale, not a completely new idea

Geminoid in a window of a Japanese department store.

Geminoid in a window of a Japanese department store.

Replace sellers by robots is not a totally new idea. There are 3 years, the Japanese brand Takishimiya installed a hyper-realistic android showcased at Valentine’s Day. One troubling “Geminoid” by Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro, whose main role was to create a buzz around the store and not replace the position of human seller. Less spectacular but perhaps more ambitious, the project researchers from Carnegie Mellon and Intel who unveiled a demonstrator in 2012 whose purpose was to guide visitors in a clothing store.

Even more surprising, the beginning of the year opened a fashion store a new type in Seattle. Hointer called, this new brand has completely redesigned its customer experience by automating the extreme. One model of each garment is exposed but it has a QR code and NFC chip.

The selling point according Hointer: mobile delivery and automatic fitting room. Need vendor's point of sale ...

The selling point according Hointer: mobile delivery and automatic fitting room. Need vendor’s point of sale …

The buyer chooses the one he wants to try via the installed on his smartphone and the selected item is automatically delivered in one of the shop fitting cabins in less than 30 seconds mobile application. A good size évidemment.Il there needs no human intervention in the process and the operation of this strange store is directly related to a mini logistics center site E-Commerce. Nothing surprising, the founder of Hointer is none other than Dr. Nadia Shouraboura, the former head of the Supply Chain Amazon. ..

The inhumanity of the outlet store Hointer foreshadows the future? Probably not, but no doubt robots will gradually find their way into stores. Japan shows the example and the relative normalization of the telepresence robot technology will make this solution more affordable for retailers. It will probably get used to these strange cross sales assistants rolling in the aisles of supermarkets in the coming years.

Sources :

“John Oliver Warns About the New Lowe’s Robot Sales Assistants”, Slate, November 3, 2014

“Nestle ‘hiring’ 1,000 robots to sell espresso machines”, JapanToday, October 30, 2014

“The Future of Shopping has Arrived and its Name is OSHbot”, Communiqué Lowe’s, October 28 2014

“Three Reasons Why Robots Will Start Replacing Retail Workers”, Business Insider, March 13, 2014

“US retailer Hointer uses robots to deliver your selections to the fitting room”, Retail-Innovation

“Carnegie Mellon researchers develop robot that takes inventory, helps you find aisle four”, Engadget, June 30, 2012

“Robots Invade Humanity’s Last Hope: Retail”, Tofugu, 2011

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