Robots are supposed to take over hundreds of thousands of jobs in the next few years, perhaps worsening the economy by driving layoffs. Among the industries in the vanguard is retail. Machines can scan food items, charge for them and take cash or credit for payment. A broader development has started as Lowe’s Companies Inc. (NYSE: LOW) has put robots into the function of store greeters.
Big-box retailers have taken the role of greeters more seriously recently. The greeter gives the retailer a “face” and helps people find items. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) has started the process already.
Lowe’s Innovation Labs has created the LoweBot to help shoppers to find items, and the company will deploy it in a few stores to start. Describing the greeter, Lowe’s commented:
This fall, Lowe’s is introducing LoweBot, a NAVii autonomous retail service robot by Fellow Robots, in eleven Lowe’s Stores throughout the San Francisco Bay area. After a successful two-year pilot of OSHbot in an Orchard Supply Hardware store, Lowe’s has realized how beneficial these retail service robots can be for customers and employees alike.
For the customer, LoweBot is able to find products, in multiple languages and effectively navigate the store. As LoweBot helps customers with simple questions, it enables employees to spend more time offering their expertise and specialty knowledge to customers. Furthermore, LoweBot is able to assist with inventory monitoring in real-time, which help detect patterns that will able to guide future business decisions.
One can see how the LoweBot can help the customer. The employee is another issue.