RETAIL ROBOTS REPORTING ON DUTY

This week’s [retail bytes] explores: is a little retail robot your new best friend?

 The bot knows best: Are you a DIY enthusiast who likes to put up a shelf or two over the weekend? If you are, you’ll be familiar with the experience of walking into Homebase or B&Q, asking staff for advice, only to be met with a blank expression on their stressed faces. Their lack of knowledge is not their fault, as stores have stopped training staff since zero hours contracts were introduced. However, robots are coming to the rescue, with Lowe DIY stores introducing LoweBots in California. You can ask the bot any question about the thousands of DIY products on offer and, thanks to their Natural Language Processing capabilities, you should get a decent answer. LoweBot is capable of finding its way in a giant store, avoiding collision with other bots or customers, and it’s connected to inventory, so it can advise on what’s in stock and give you up to date information on the latest paints. Bring it on!

Cosmetics robots at your service: At our office, we all share a pet peeve – obsequious, insincere and over-the-top sales assistants on the cosmetics floors of London department stores. Not once or twice have we fallen victim to our own vanity and bought an overpriced eyeliner for an equivalent of our monthly salary only because we were told that it really ‘brings up our colouring’. So then, hurrah for the new Fabled store on Tottenham Court Road, where long-suffering customers simply looking for some basic eyeshadow can find out about the products from well-positioned self-service tablets in the store. The concept of the Fabled and Marie Claire joint project looks like a step in the right direction and it’s already filling up with customers happy to do their own research using the online database and then test the real thing in-store. Tills are still there but self-payment is rumoured to be on the way. Good luck with the store and congrats to GP studio for a great self-service shop UX. We love.

Grocery shopping has never been easier: One robot that’ll be appreciated by customers is the new self-driving shopping cart. Walmart has patented the GPS-enabled small trolley – a store vehicle that will be able to drive itself to pick up your cereals and respond to your questions on where to find any other item. No more wasting time looking for the elusive Marmite that’s been moved yet again by the most eager shelf-layout people.

Sidewalk buddy: If you Amazon package isn’t too heavy, there’s a chance that a sidewalk bot called Carry can deliver the order to your home. Two companies, Dispatches and Marbles, are testing the new handy delivery bot that may offload your postman. Capable of carrying up to 100 pounds of parcels, they might be just the ticket to your last minute party dress delivery. Hermes drivers may need to find a new career – not a bad thing considering the poor quality ranking the logistics company has suffered over the last 12 months. Delivery bots can’t come a moment too soon.

Look, no hands! From shops to roads, robots are making fast progress. Zero hour gigs for Uber drivers is still too expensive for the eponymous urban taxi company, so in the drive to save costs Uber is launching self-driving taxis, entirely led by a computer full of sensors and much cheaper to run than beer-loving humans. So far the pilot rides have been hairy to say the least (see its first person account) but then again so are trips with NYC taxi drivers, particularly on the route from JFK airport. Uber may be on to something.

The hot new collab: Stock Photos x Adobe Bonus – Adobe has a new Stock Photos edition and, to celebrate how fresh and non-clichéd they are, their creatives gave us a new t-shirt collection showing all the old cheesy favourites – our choice as best Xmas present for your workmates.