Technology is in the process of completely transforming all aspects of 4 industries – construction, medicine, retail, and transport – with a significant reduction in the need for human labor. Here is the impact on the Retail Industry:

  • Product manufacture (including food preparation) is being automated, using such technologies as robotics, CAD, and additive (3D or 4D) manufacturing. Many products are being customized to specific customer specifications.
  • The supply chain that transports products to warehouses and onward to stores or customer locations will be automated by the use of autonomous robots, cars, trucks, trains and ships – with tracking based on paperless blockchains.
  • Fully-automated warehouses are already in use, which replace workers with robots and conveyor belts to stock and retrieve products, and to fill orders
  • Retail stores are changing their primary functions from the traditional look-touch-buy to look-touch-pickup (soon with the use of augmented reality technology), with ordering and payment via the internet. For groceries, look-touch-buy is being achieved without cashiers or sales staff or couriers. Most products sold on the internet will be delivered directly to customers’ homes by autonomous systems (vehicles or drones or robots).
  • Customer support is using AI to handle automatically the majority of queries and concerns, while in-store support (including restaurant wait staff and hosts) will be provided by robots.

The number of jobs in the retailing process is being significantly reduced. There is already limited need for cashiers, sales staff, and warehouse workers. Fast food workers and restaurant wait staff will be replaced by robots. Supply chain workers (such as truck drivers and dispatchers and document handlers) will no longer be needed. This is already starting in a few places, but, as the cost of the new technologies drop (which will happen at an accelerating rate), expect much of this to be standard in 5-10 years (and earlier if the minimum wage keeps increasing).



Future use of robots in the home (Robotics/Home – 2018-04 – ZDNet)

6 more cashier-free Amazon Go stores could be coming in 2018 (AI/Stores – 2018-02 – TechRepublic)

What it’s like to shop at an Amazon Go store (AI/Automated Store – 2018-01 – ZDNet)

Meals on robot wheels: Pizzamaker plans driverless deliveries (Drone/Courier – 2017-04 – ZDNet)


11 jobs teens are about to lose to robots (Robotics - 2018-05 - ZDNet)

The 11 jobs are Bellhop, Barista, Pizza delivery driver, Line cook, Security guard, Lifeguard, Cashier, Host, Landscaping, Pizza chef, and (a stretch) dogwalker.

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Target uses AR for makeup shopping on-line and in stores (AI - Augmented Reality/Cosmetics - 2018-05 - TechRepublic)

On Wednesday, Target rolled out augmented reality (AR) and digital chat services to help customers more easily shop for cosmetics online and in stores. customers can virtually try on hundreds of makeup items, including lipstick, blush, and false lashes. This mirrors services offered by beauty giant Sephora.

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Amazon to bring automated stores to Chicago, San Francisco as AI replaces human cashiers (AI - 2018-05 - TechRepublic)

After testing Amazon Go stores in Seattle, nationwide expansion is planned, starting with Chicago and San Francisco. In an Amazon Go store, customers walk in, scan an Amazon Go app, shop and leave. Amazon charges your account, and sends a receipt when you leave the store—no checkout line needed. The technology ‘Just Walk Out’ taps computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning tools to determine which items a customer put in their cart, and make the right charges.

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A British supermarket is using >1,000 robots to make online grocery shopping faster (Robotics/Automated Warehouse - 2018-05 - The Verge)

Ocado, a British online-only supermarket, has created a warehouse, involving a hive-grid-machine with over one thousand robots, each the size and shape of a washing machine, that lift, move, and sort groceries. The operation will process 3.5 million items or around 65,000 orders every week.

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Farmer’s Fridge operates >100 unmanned fresh food vending units in Chicago and Milwaukee (AI/Food - 2018-04 - FoodManagement)

Farmer’s Fridge offers conveniently-accessed fresh, wholesome meals in over 100 unmanned fresh food vending units across the Chicago and Milwaukee metro regions. The units are maintained by the company, which monitors and restocks them daily, with any unsold product donated to community members in need. Selections include salads, sandwiches, bowl meals, and snacks – with everything scratch-made using seasonal ingredients from local partners whenever possible.

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Walmart's automated pickup stations highlight future of digital transformation in retail (AI/Walmart - 2018-04 - TechRepublic)

By December 2018, Walmart will have added 500 Pickup Towers to the 200 used in a pilot project in late 2017. The Towers are colossal structures within Walmart stores, allowing online buyers to pick up goods bought from the company’s website, just by scanning a barcode. 40% of the US population will have access to the towers by the end of the year.

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Walmart files patent applications for drone shopping assistants and smart shopping carts (AI/Walmart - 2018-03 - The Verge)

Walmart has filed a host of patents, including a sensing device to make shopping carts smart and communicate with mobile devices; Tracking users through wearables; Drones that would assist customers shopping in-store with price verification and product location; and a method for detecting items placed in a container.

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Robot helps wait staff by bringing food to the tables (Robotics/restaurants - 2018-03 - FastCompany)

The Kang Nam Tofu House in Milpitas, California, is the first in the world to use a robot to bring food and bills to tables, acting as an assistant to, rather than replacing, human servers, and allowing them to focus more on customer service, Penny is a small, pedestal-shaped robot designed to navigate in a restaurant’s crowded, narrow spaces, using sensors to avoid any obstacles. After all table and kitchen locations are programmed in, the robot makes a map of the restaurant.

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Miso Robotics gets VC funding for its burger-flipping robot (Robotics/Food Service - 2018-02 - ZDNet)

Miso Robotics, a creator of a burger flipping robot named Flippy, announced $10 million in Series B financing. The size of the $3 trillion global prepared foods industry, coupled with rising minimum wages, has prompted a rush to create automation solutions in fast food. Flippy is a lightweight industrial robotic arm with a spatula for an end effector and is now just flipping burgers. But its AI can learn to adjust cooking duration, and ensure perfect production. A robot costs about $60,000, and will soon do more, like toasting buns and grilling onions.

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Robot fired from Scottish grocery store for poor performance (Robotics - 2018-01 - TechRepublic)

A shop robot named Fabio was recently fired from an Edinburgh supermarket, Margiotta, after failing to perform in a helpful manner and confusing some customers. The robot was unable to assist customers in finding the products they were looking for, and many customers ended up going out of their way to avoid it. Fabio was a custom version of SoftBank’s Pepper robot, programmed by Heriot-Watt University to be able to find certain product SKUs in the store.

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Walmart testing cashierless stores and home delivery (AI/Walmart - 2017-12 - TechRepublic)

Walmart is testing an automated physical store concept, using computer vision to track and automatically bill customers’ purchases, eliminating the need for human cashiers. Walmart subsidiary Code Eight is experimenting with letting customers shop at their stores via text message. Guests may be able to text a photo of a specific item or a general description to a bot, which will select an item and add it to their order. The bots will use machine learning and natural language processing to provide the best items. Household items will be delivered to the customer for free within 24 hours, with other items arriving within two days.

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Amazon's AR shopping feature previews products in your home (Augmented Reality/Amazon - 2017-11 - Engadget)

Amazon is launching an AR View feature inside its iOS shopping app that previews “thousands” of products in 3D, ranging from kitchen appliances to toys to electronics.

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The current state of 3D-printing food (Additive Manu/Food Cooking - 2017-11 - TechRepublic)

3D-printed food offers intricate designs, automated cooking, mass manufacturing, and personalized meals. A 3D food printer, able to print and cook your favorite meal with a single touch of a screen, will be available in the next few years. Natural Machines launched Foodini as a B2B product in 2014, the first 3D food printer to make both savory and sweet foods with fresh ingredients. Netherlands-based ByFlow has specialized in 3D-printing since 2009. Its portable “Focus” 3D food printer is also a B2B product, optimized for desserts. BeeHex’s Chef 3D can print a 12-inch pizza in less than five minutes, which it plans to market to high volume pizza chains.

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Amazon takes next step in controlling and automating its delivery service (AI/Amazon - 2017-10 - Bloomberg)

Amazon is experimenting with a new delivery service intended to make more products available for free two-day delivery and to relieve overcrowding in its warehouses. Amazon will oversee pickup of packages from warehouses of third-party merchants selling goods on and their delivery to customers’ homes – work that is now often handled by UPS and FedEx.

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Examples of automated store models, including 40 stores operated by 4 people (AI/Automated Stores - 2017-10 - Disrupters)

Five examples of automated stores:
1. Mobile, automatic grocery.stores in Shanghai, using self-driving electric vehicles that come to you, mobile payments, and wireless tagging of stock.
2. BingoBox has over 150 static automatic shops operating in China, offering 10 sq.m. stocked with a wide range of items, and a video-linked assistant. It only takes 4 staff to run 40 stores.
3. Alibaba is testing a pop-up café with no cashiers, using facial recognition on entry, custom food selection, and mobile phone payment.
4. Amazon is using their own staff to test a food store with no staff and no checkout. Customers scan their mobiles on their arrival, select products, and leave paying through their Amazon account.
5. Alibaba is pioneering a retail ecosystem that provides a bricks-and-mortar store catering to both online and offline shopping. Groceries – or a meal – can be ordered online to be picked up or delivered. 13 cashless supermarkets are already operating, mostly in Shanghai.

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Walmart introduces secure grocery delivery to your fridge (AI/Courier - 2017-10 - FastCode)

Walmart is partnering with smartlock makers at August Home, and the delivery service Deliv, to test (in Silicon Valley) grocery delivery straight to your refrigerator – even when you’re not home. The system starts with an order on; The Deliv driver takes your packages to your home; Ringing the doorbell initiates a phone notification; If you’re not home, the driver enters a one-time code to unlock the door, and stores your groceries in your fridge, while being monitored on security cameras linked to your phone.

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Amazon Key starts a service in November 2017 that lets couriers unlock your front door (AI/Courier - 2017-10 - The Verge)

Amazon Key relies on Amazon’s new Cloud Cam and compatible smart lock. The camera is the hub, connected to the internet via your home Wi-Fi. The camera talks to the lock over Zigbee. Couriers with an in-home delivery package scan barcodes, and Amazon’s cloud grants permission by starting cameras recording. Couriers swipe screens, and doors unlock. Packages are dropped off, and doors relocked. Customers are notified, along with a short video showing the drop-off. The smart lock, connected camera, and free installation cost $250.

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Glasses, custom manufactured to fit your face (Augmented Reality/Eyewear - 2017-10 - TechCrunch)

Topology Eyewear is an augmented reality app providing custom-fitted glasses from a 3D scan of your face. First it takes a video selfie to perfectly capture your facial measurements; Then it manufactures customized glasses without the hassle of bridge slippage or uneven frames. Users use AR to test glasses for the desired look and fit. Price is $495-$800.

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Shake Shack is launching a cashless burger joint in New York City in October 2017 (AI/Fast Food - 2017-10 - TechCrunch)

Shake Shack is trialing a cash-free New York location, where the only ordering option will be via kiosks. It will feature custom-made kiosks with touchscreen ordering, and built-in text message alerts for when orders are ready for pickup. Staff will provide customer support.

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Walmart is using robots to scan shelves for out-of-stock items, incorrect prices, and missing labels (Robotics/Walmart - 2017-10 - TechRepublic)

Walmart is using robots to scans shelves for out-of-stock items, incorrect prices, and missing labels, freeing up employees to work with customers. Initial tests of the program took place in a few Walmart stores across Arkansas, Pennsylvania, and California. Walmart will be expanding to 50 more stores, relying on customer and employee feedback as it grows.

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Miso Robotics' hamburger-flipping robot debuts in Caliburger's Pasadena outlet (Robotics/Fast Food - 2017-09 - FutureScope)

Miso Robotics’ hamburger-flipping robot debuts in one of its investor’s (Caliburger) outlets in Pasadena – the first of 50 planned. Flippy is an industrial robotic arm, bolted to the floor. After an exclusive 6-months, the robot will be sold for around $60,000.

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AI to replace retail workers sooner than expected (AI - 2017-09 - Thenextweb)

Citibank’s research paper involved several experts predicting the future of human employment. One forecast is that employment in the retail industry is likely to vanish. But there’s always going to be a need for humans to provide a face-to-face experience that robots can’t, and people who are really good at that will keep their jobs.

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MIT creates drone system that reads RFID tags from tens of metres (Drone/Warehouse - 2017-08 - FutureScope)

MIT engineer and Assistant Professor Fadel Adib leads a research team that has developed an aerial drone system capable of reading RFID tags from tens of meters away and identifying the location of the package within 19 centimeters, by relaying the signals emitted by the reader over larger distances. Rfly could save retailers billions in inventory shrinkage while reducing inventory logging from a multi-day activity for a team of workers to less than one day’s activity.

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Wendy's digital transformation plans include self-serving kiosks in 1,000 restaurants in 2017 (AI/Automated Restaurant - 2017-07 - ZDNet)

Wendy’s in 2017: >1,000 restaurants with self-serving kiosks; Mobile ordering in >50% restaurants. 3 kiosks cost $12-15,000 with a 2-year payback and the gateway to mobile. Plans to use kiosk data to customize its sandwiches depending on location and time.

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Open source personal robot kit for the family to learn about robotics (Robotics - 2017-07 -

Thecorpora launched a successful crowdfunding campaign to get its robot to the market. The robot is easy to build, simple to program, and easy to hack. This desktop bot is 400 mm tall and will be supplied in kit form so that would-be roboticists can learn how to build it, and it was designed around an open source software and hardware architecture.

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Amazon plans to ship, store, retrieve, and deliver products with almost no humans involved (AI/Amazon - 2017-05 - Quartz)

The Wall Street Journal reports that Amazon is exploring what role autonomous-vehicle technology could have in its business. The research hints at Amazon owning the delivery and logistics chain for its packages and making it as efficient as possible, which means eliminating human involvement (truck drivers, warehouse workers, maybe eventually even pilots) wherever possible.

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Wal-Mart cuts 18,000+ US jobs (Internet/Walmart - 2017-04 - Wall Street Journal)

Since early 2016, Wal-Mart has cut more than 18,000 U.S. jobs and is cutting hundreds of corporate jobs this month, following similar layoffs earlier this year. The cuts fell mostly on its international operations, its technology group, and Sam’s Club. Walmart is countering the billions spent on improving its e-commerce operations to compete with Amazon.

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US retailers closing stores at fastest pace on record (General - 2017-04 - Stansberry Research)

Credit Suisse analyst Christian Buss says retailers have announced 2,880 store closings so far this year. At this rate, more than 8,600 locations will close by year-end. This would be nearly 40% higher than the all-time peak of about 6,200 in 2008, during the worst of the financial crisis. And the trend shows no signs of slowing yet.

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Amazon could be killing more jobs than China (General/Amazon - 2017-03 - Big Think)

Automation, not China, may be destroying jobs faster than they are being created. So how to create a human-first economy when what is beneficial for consumers is not what’s best for workers? Consumers are part of an ethical disruption by buying cheaper goods from Amazon after seeing them at a retail store (which provided access but received no revenue).

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Robot food delivery started in California (Robotics/Courier - 2017-03 - BuzzFeed)

The on-demand delivery company DoorDash is putting a small fleet of six-wheeled delivery robots into action for the first time in Redwood City, California, following weeks of tests. The robots, built by a company called Starship Technologies, are about the size of a golden retriever and roll around sidewalks with relative ease. They’ll be used to lug food from restaurants to customers on short-distance orders spanning anywhere from one to two miles.

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BeeHex robot can 3D-print a custom-shaped pizza in 6 minutes (Additive Manu/Food Cooking - 2017-03 - TheNextWeb)

BeeHex is a Silicon Valley startup that has invented Chef 3D, a bot that can 3D-print a pizza in 1 minute, using custom shapes derived from a .jpg. It all starts with a smartphone app. After selecting the pizza’s size, dough, sauce, and cheese the bot goes to work.

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Walmart patent for in-store product retrieval drone (Drone/Walmart - 2017-03 -

Walmart was granted a patent for a system in which drones would shuttle products between different departments inside its stores. The drones would use nets or hooks to grab and carry items or would be loaded manually. They would mostly avoid buzzing above customers’ heads by being routed over shelves. Sensors on the drones would help them avoid obstacles. Several drone landing zones would be created in stores.

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About 1/3rd of US malls could close (General - 2017-03 - Casey Research)

The U.S. has 50% more retail space per person than Canada, twice as much as Australia, and more than four times as much as the UK – and demand is plummeting because of on-line sales. Of about 1,000 malls in the US 334 are “at high risk of closing.”

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1,500+ retail stores to be closed in 1Q2017 (General - 2017-03 - Casey Research)

In 2016, Sports Authority, Wet Seal, American Apparel, Aeropostale, and Eastern Outfitters all filed for bankruptcy or liquidated their assets. Other major retailers like Macy’s, Gap, Sears, and Guess are in “survival mode.” To-date this year, retailers are planning to close >1,500 stores. A major crisis is rocking the traditional retail industry (caused by over-capacity, rising inflation, and on-line retailers like Amazon) – and it may never recover. Credit rating agency Fitch expects the default rate for the retail sector to hit 9% this year.

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McDonald's testing an automated burger dispensary (Robotics/Food Dispensing - 2017-01 -

McDonald’s is testing an automated burger dispensary in one Boston location, for one day only, on Jan. 31. By touching a screen, customers can choose between three sizes of Big Mac.

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