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OSHbot, Lowe's Robotic Shopping Assistants
OSHbot is a new robotic shopping assistant for Lowe's hardware stores. They are starting with an Orchard Hardware store in San Jose, CA; they claim it is the first retail robot of its kind in the US. (I note that robotic shopping assistants have been implemented elsewhere, some with their own advanced features.)
The OSHbot will greet customers, ask if they need help and guide them through the store to the product. Besides natural-language-processing technology, the 5-foot tall white robot houses two large rectangular screens—front and back—for video conferences with a store expert and to display in-store specials. The head features a 3-D scanner to help customers identify items. OSHbot speaks English and Spanish, but other languages will be added.
As customers follow OSHbot to the correct aisle, they will see ads for in-store specials on its back screen as they pass various departments, communicated through in-store beacons. Customers who need help with, say, a specific type of plumbing project can initiate a video conference on OSHbot’s front screen with available experts at any Orchard store.
OSHbot also can help customers match a certain-size nail or hinge with a 3D-scanner and determine immediately if the part is in stock. In the future, OSHbot may be able to create the part with a 3-D printer, said Marco Mascorro, CEO of Fellow Robots, based in Mountain View, Calif.
Fans of Philip K. Dick are no strangers to the idea of being served by robots, not since his 1954 short story Sales Pitch:
Robot-salesmen were everywhere, gesturing, pleading, shrilling. One started after him and he quickened his pace. It scurried along, chanting its pitch and trying to attract his attention, all the way up the hill to his living-unit. It didn't give up until he stooped over, snatched up a rock, and hurled it futilely. He scrambled in the house and slammed the doorlock after him. The robot hesitated, then turned and raced after a woman with an armload of packages toiling up the hill. She tried vainly to elude it, without success.
(Read more about Dick's robot salesmen)
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