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Is that a robot rolling down the aisle at Albertsons and Walmart? Yep. Here’s what it’s for

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If you thought you saw a robot roaming the aisles at your local Albertsons – you aren’t seeing things.

The company rolled out the robots at three Boise area stores earlier this year, according to company spokesperson Kathy Holland. We spotted the Bossa Nova in the company’s new store at 1219 S. Broadway.

Here’s how it works.

The robots wander up and down the aisles and shine a light on the shelves. Paired with 3D cameras and artificial intelligence, the robot captures what is on the shelf and creates a report that tells store managers what products might be out of stock or running low or incorrectly priced.

The robot works around workers, carts and guests.

A customer looks at the Bossa Nova robot at Albertsons on Broadway Ave. in Boise. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev
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Sarjoun Skaff, company co-founder told TechCrunch that the technology took about six years to get right. Walmart will roll out the robot in more than 350 of its stores around the country.

For Albertsons, Holland said the robots are a key part of new company CEO Vivek Sankaran’s push to focus on technology – both in stores and through online channels. The company is at work on an array of tech-focused initiatives as competition for the grocery market heats up.  The retailer now offers home delivery, in-store pickup, and recently relaunched its gas station program.

The Boise-based company has nearly 2,300 stores nationwide and often tests concepts in stores close to its home base.

Both Albertsons and Walmart said the robots don’t alleviate the need for labor – but instead give retailers more insight into store supplies than they might otherwise be able to do by hand – or that would be a tedious task for a worker.

Don Day
Don is the founder and editor of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow.

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