TECHNOLOGY

ROBOTICS: RETAIL

INTRODUCTION

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). 

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REVIEW THESE INFORMATIVE ARTICLES - AND READ THOSE THAT INTEREST YOU

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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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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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, the 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 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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Open source personal robot kit for the family to learn about robotics (Robotics - 2017-07 - Technology.org)

Thecorpora launched a successful crowdfunding campaign to get its Q.bo 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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Robot food delivery started in California (Robotics/Courier - 2017-03 - BuzzFeed)

This Thursday, 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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McDonald's testing an automated burger dispensary (Robotics/Food Dispensing - 2017-01 - Fortune.com)

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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