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).



Shelf-scanning robots and drones (Robotics&Drones – 2019-09 – ZDNet)

Warehouse robots make same-day delivery possible (Robotics/Warehousing – 2019-07 – ZDNet)

Supply chains using blockchain improve food safety (Blockchain – 2019-04 – TechRepublic)

A Mini Bakery that is actually a robot bakery (Robotics – 2017-10 – ZDNet)

4 trends that are changing the way we shop (AI – 2017-07 – ZDNet)

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)



Softbank to open a cafe run by Pepper robots (Restaurant/Robotics - 2019-09 - ZDNet)

Softbank Robotics is developing a Tokyo cafe that will be run by its humanoid robot Pepper. Pepper Parlor will use both human and robot staff, and is set to open in December 2020. Pepper was developed for SoftBank by Aldebaran, a French robotics company specializing in emotionally intelligent humanoids that can function in unstructured environments like homes, shops, and specialized care facilities.

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Blockchain-based platform addresses food safety concerns in China (Retail/Food Safety - 2019-06 - CoinDesk)

Walmart China has launched a blockchain-based platform aimed to address food safety concerns in China, including 23 product lines tested and listed, with another 100 planned by the end of 2019.

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Last-mile delivery system: An autonomous local logistics hub paired with a robotic delivery truck (Courier/AI - 2019-06 - ZDNet)

Boxbot, a California delivery logistics startup, unveiled its autonomous last-mile delivery system: An automated local hub where packages are received, sorted, and prepped for delivery, along with a fleet of street-based driverless vehicles.

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Domino’s will launch robot deliveries for Houston residents late in 2019 (Courier/AI - 2019-06 - Wired)

Later in 2019, Nuro’s robot will start delivering Domino’s pies and cheesy breads to customers in the Houston area. The R2 vehicle is about half the size of a sedan and is made exclusively for carrying goods. Customers will be issued a code to enter into a screen on the bot that opens one of its two compartments.

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Amazon’s new robot can pack 600+ boxes/hour (Warehousing/Robotics - 2019-05 - ExtremeTech)

Amazon has installed $1+ million robots in its facilities that can pack 6-700 boxes/hour, and wrap packages inside custom-assembled boxes, operating at 4-5 times a worker’s rate. The robots may be installed at dozens of warehouses, eliminating about 24 positions/warehouse.

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A team of robots fulfills an order in 1 hour (Order Fulfillment/Robotics - 2019-04 - ZDNet)

By harnessing networks of tiny automated hubs, micro-fulfillment could enable retailers to store their goods in the hearts of cities while still benefiting from the efficiency of automation. CommonSense Robotics has achieved its first 1-hour fulfillment delivery in partnership with an Israeli health and beauty retailer.

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Walmart to use nearly 4,000 more robots in stores (Stores/Robotics - 2019-04 - Fox Business)

Walmart is adding >3,900 robots in stores to help monitor inventory, clean floors and unload trucks, including 1,500 new autonomous floor cleaners, 300 additional shelf scanners, 1,200 unloaders and 900 new pickup towers.

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Food and medication from local Australian businesses to be delivered by drone (Courier/Drone - 2019-04 - MIT Technology Review)

Alphabet’s drone division, Wing, has launched its first public delivery service for about 100 homes in Canberra, Australia, processing orders for food and medication from 12 local businesses to be delivered by drone in minutes. Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority granted regulatory approval after an 18-month trial involving 3,000 deliveries.

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Albertsons is the latest grocery store to adopt the blockchain-based system for tracing food from farm to store shelf (Food/Blockchain - 2019-04 - TechRepublic)

IBM continues to expand the blockchain-based Food Trust network to improve the way food is traced from farm to grocery store, with Albertsons Companies piloting food safety measures in its 2,300 stores across the US,

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Trade organization ICC supports blockchain adoption for 45 million members (Blockchain/Supply Chain - 2019-04 - CoinDesk)

The Paris-based 100-year-old International Chamber of Commerce has partnered with Singapore-based blockchain startup Perlin to improve supply chain processes for its 45 million members (from 130 countries), making the processes more traceable and transparent.

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6,000 US store closures announced in 1Q2019, more than for all of 2018 (AI - 2019-04 - Business Insider)

A Coresight Research report found 5,994 store closings announced in 1Q2019, compared with 5,864 in all of 2018. Some retailers, including Fred’s and Family Dollar, are closing select stores in a bid to stay profitable, while chains like Payless have announced they are shuttering all of their stores.

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Walmart unveils an AI-powered store of the future, now open to the public (Stores/AI - 2019-04 - TechCrunch)

Walmart unveiled a “store of the future” in Levittown, NY for testing emerging technologies, including AI-enabled ceiling-mounted cameras and interactive displays. The store has 50,000 sq. ft retail space, is staffed by 100+ employees, and offers 30,000+ items. The store has traditional checkout stations, and the cameras monitor inventory levels, determining replenishment or replacement needs.

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Startup to launch smart beauty shopping service in Dubai Mall's Galeries Lafayette (Personal Services/AI - 2019-04 - Samsung)

The beauty AI startup ‘lululab’ unveiled its AI Beauty Store, an unmanned virtual store in Dubai Mall, the world’s largest shopping mall. The service offered includes self-skin analysis using a single selfie with a multispectral camera, recommended products, and an outcome report.

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FedEx partners with Walmart, Pizza Hut to test last-mile delivery robot (Courier/Robotics - 2019-03 - Reuters)

This summer, FedEx Corp plans to test a robot to handle home deliveries for partners ranging from Walmart Inc to Pizza Hut. The battery-powered robot will look like a cooler on wheels, and be developed by DEKA Development & Research Corp, travelling at a top speed of 10 mph.

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Fast food drive-thru using AI to take orders (Fast Food/AI - 2019-02 -

Colorado-based startup Valyant AI announced the launch of a voice-based AI customer service platform, which is now taking customer orders at the drive-thru at Denver’s Good Times Burgers and Frozen Custard.

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Online & brick retail declines as consumerism declines among millennials in Western World (Dept Stores/AI - 2019-02 -

British retail giants saw Christmas sales lowest since 2008, amidst 93,000 UK retail jobs lost in 2018. Marks and Spencers is closing 100 stores.

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Tesla is closing all its stores, only selling on-line (Automotive - 2019-02 - Axios)

Tesla is launching its $35,000 Model 3, but to meet its target price, the company is closing all of its 378 stores worldwide, laying off retail employees and shifting all sales online. (NRA: This is the future of all automotive sales.)

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Flying robot scans shelves faster than clerks or ground robots (Drones - 2019-01 - ZDNet)

Pensa is a New York company that makes an autonomous mobile perception system to track inventory in stores. Pensa uses drones which are faster, quieter and less obtrusive than ground robots.

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500 robots infiltrate US grocery stores to identify safety hazards (Store Safety/Robotics - 2019-01 -

US GIANT/MARTIN’S and Stop & Shop grocery stores will deploy nearly 500 autonomous robots after successful pilot runs that improved store safety and efficiency. The robots identify safety hazards such as liquid, powder, and bulk food spills, and then apply corrective actions.

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US grocery giant Kroger has started making completely autonomous deliveries (Retail/Courier - 2018-12 - MIT Technology Review)

The US grocer Kroger is trialing one autonomous delivery vehicle with no human supervision from one store in Scottsdale, Arizona. Almost 1,000 test deliveries have been made with some human assistance. Customers will pay $5.95 to request the robotic delivery van, and will have to come out to unload it when it arrives.

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Postmates has launched a delivery robot that will bring lunch to your door (Retail/Delivery - 2018-12 - MIT Technology Review)

Postmates, the logistics firm, has unveiled a robot (‘Serve’) that will deliver groceries/lunch in Los Angeles. Serve, which looks like a lunchbox on wheels, will travel along sidewalks at walking speed, carrying up to 50 lbs. Serve travel most of the way in a Postmates car before taking the delivery to the customer’s door. 

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On-line order fulfillment centre can process 65,000 orders/week (Retail/Grocery - 2018-12 - PC Mag)

UK’s Ocada Technology operates an automated grocery order fulfillment center that uses over 1,000 made-in-Britain robots to pick a 50-item order in 5 mins from a 50,000 menu of items. The battery-operated, orchestrated robots move, at 18 mph, on a vast grid, where each location contains a stack of storage bins. Bins are brought to pick stations to fulfill a customer order. (Watch the video above.)

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A robotic bartender who serves drinks ordered through a phone app (Retail/Restaurants - 2018-12 - Reuters)

The Cyberdog in Prague features a robotic bartender who serves drinks ordered through a phone app. Its red robotic arm picks among seven wines on offer in a cool box. It then opens the bottle and pours up to four glasses at a time. Next it lifts the glasses on a tray that travels overhead to the customers’ table, then lowers the load so people can pick up their glasses.

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Robots are cooking in fast food restaurants (Retail/Restaurants - 2018-12 - BBC)

A review of the use of robots in food preparation.

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Burger restaurant has fully-automated kitchen (Retail/Restaurants - 2018-12 - BBC Future)

Creator, a new restaurant in San Francisco, uses two family-car-sized robots, churning out 120 burgers/hour. They grind meat, shape burgers, slice tomatoes, grate cheese, and dispense mustard. Each burger can be customized with different sauces, cheeses and toppings, and is precision grilled. Each robot has 350 sensors, 50 actuators, and 20 computers.

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Amazon and Walmart add more robots, but insist they won’t terminate jobs (Retail - 2018-12 - FastCompany)

Use of robots in distribution and order fulfillment centres, retail stores, and customer delivery. Companies say automation will lead to new jobs, but critics worry about phased-out humans. Quote “This robot can do in about 2.5 hours what it was taking an associate around 2 weeks …”

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Amazon's Go stores will use biometrics instead of cashiers to perform checkout (Retail/Facial Recognition - 2018-11 - Biometric Update)

Amazon plans to open <3,000 Go stores by 2021. Alipay in China has released "pay-with-a-smile" facial payment. Retail specialists predict biometric payment systems will be used regularly by 2.6B people globally by 2023. Show full article

Alibaba's Tmall and Ford have a vehicle 'vending machine (Retail/Automobile - 2018-11 - ZDNet)

Customers can browse the cars (Ford or other makes) stored in the massive vending machine via their smartphones, make their purchase, and have the vehicle delivered at ground level – or qualify for a 3-day test drive.

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Providing customers with any groceries, anytime, and anywhere in U.S. (Retail/Food Services - 2018-11 - MIT Technology Review)

The Kroger Co. and UK online supermarket Ocado announced an exclusive partnership agreement in the United States that will accelerate Kroger’s creation of a seamless shopping experience for America’s families.

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7-Eleven is piloting cashier-less stores (Retail/Cashier-less stores - 2018-11 - TechCrunch)

7-Eleven is piloting cashier-less payments in 14 Dallas stores, and will expand to more cities in 2019.

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Amazon is hiring fewer workers this holiday season, a sign that robots are replacing them (Retail - 2018-11 - Quartz)

Amazon staffing for the holidays is 20,000 less than for 2017. This may be due to increased automation in its warehouses, where a robot can handle in 15 minutes the sorting, picking, packing, and shipping that used to take human workers an hour or more to complete.

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The next big restaurant chain may not own any kitchens (Retail/Food Services - 2018-10 - TechCrunch)

Venture capitalists are funding start-ups that offer shared kitchens, storage facilities, and pickup counters for established chains and new food entrepreneurs. This creates major reductions in overhead costs, and allows for fast implementation of new concepts in fast food and casual dining.

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New York City’s first Amazon Go cashierless store will open near the World Trade Center (Retail/Cashierless store - 2018-10 - Recode)

Amazon’s 7th cashierless convenience store is going to be located inside a shopping and office complex across from the World Trade Center in New York. The store will likely offer prepared foods, such as sandwiches and salads, alongside a small selection of packaged groceries, like soups and condiments.

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Amazon may open 3,000 cashierless conveniene stores by 2021 (Retail/Food - 2018-09 - Bloomberg)

Amazon may open up to 3,000 AmazonGo cashierless convenience stores in the next 3 years, offering fresh prepared foods with or without a limited grocery selection.

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Zippin is the first Amazon Go rival to open an automated checkout store (Retail - 2018-08 - FastCompany)

A San Francisco startup has launched a small public demo that will grow into a 500 sq.ft. AI-driven convenience store in the coming months – Amazon Go’s first rival store.

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AI supporting buying decisions decimate the number of buyers needed (Retail/Buyers - 2018-07 - TechRepublic)

Clothing design is one way AI is transforming the fashion and retail industries. Companies also routinely use AI to decide which clothes to stock and what to recommend to customers.

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San Francisco is too expensive for restaurant wait staff to live in (Retail/Restaurants - 2018-06 - New York Times)

Popular, even gourmet restaurants in expensive San Francisco can no longer find or afford servers. Clients scout their own table, order on-line, get their own water glass or wine, and silverware. Runners bring your order to the table, but there are no servers to wait on you.

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AI is automating food preparation (Retail/Food service - 2018-06 - TechRepublic)

Food industry jobs are increasingly being replaced by automation, starting with cashiers. McDonald’s plans to add mobile ordering and kiosks to 7-8,000 stores in the next 2 years. Food preparation is also being automated: Robots making pizza and ice cream; Self-cleaning robotic cooking pots; Food dispensed through automated machine.

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50,000 Las Vegas workers are ready to go on strike over fears of robots taking their jobs (Retail/Gambling - 2018-06 - Gizmodo)

The primary issue for greater than 50,000 Culinary and Bartenders Union members is protection against robot replacements. They have voted to strike to secure their jobs. The culinary and hospitality industries are primary targets for automation in coming years.

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Product purchasing at Amazon done better by robots (Retail/Purchasing - 2018-06 - MIT Technology Review)

Amazon’s buyers have been replaced by algorithms, which take in thousands of inputs and are always running, and are smarter than any human. This started with automating product ordering and inventory-tracking, but now includes negotiating with major brands.

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Robot is chef at a new burger joint (Retail/Food service - 2018-06 - Fast Company)

Creator, a new San Francisco restaurant, uses a robot to slice buns, add condiments, prepare and add fresh toppings, grill the meat, creating a fully prepared hamburger–all without any human intervention.

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A British supermarket is using more than 1,000 robots to make on-line grocery shopping faster (Retail-Automated Warehouse/Robotics - 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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Food waste management company uses blockchain to track food waste from restaurant to the needy (Retail/Food - 2018-05 - Fast Company)

Goodr has created a system that has diverted nearly a million pounds of food in Atlanta from landfills–and into kitchens. Surplus food is redirected from businesses to nonprofits which share it with needy families. Goodr’s app has clients signalling the availability of surplus food, which is picked up, packaged, and delivered to nonprofits, with all steps recorded on a blockchain.

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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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IBM partners with jewelry industry on blockchain supply chain project (Retail/Jewellery - 2018-04 - Coindesk)

IBM is collaborating with international jewelry industry leaders to create a cross-industry supply chain tracking platform. Powered by a permissioned blockchain, the initiative will facilitate the tracking of diamonds and precious metals as they advance from mine to market.

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Farmer’s Fridge operates more than 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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