By Kiet Do

MILPITAS (KPIX 5) – Artificial intelligence will soon be put to work at Walmart stores around the country. And it could be a game-changer for retail.

The company is launching a small army of autonomous scanning robots. The robots are 6 feet tall, equipped with an array of lights, cameras, and radar sensors.

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It then goes up and down each aisle on its own, at 2 to 3 mph, scanning the shelves for empty spots and also checking the price tags.

Because the robot uses LIDAR and other video cameras, what the robot actually sees is very similar to what a self-driving car sees.

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The three dimensional world it sees is detailed enough for the algorithm to figure out what’s missing and needs restocking.

And when an employee standing on a ladder gets in view of the camera, it’ll scan that too.

Martin Hitch is the chief business officer at Bossanova, the San Francisco company that made the robot.

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He sais the robot is supposed to drive around obstacles and look for alternative routes.

“We boxed it in with four TV cameras earlier, and it made a decision on the fly as to how to figure out a way around so that it could carry on with its job,” Hitch said. “That’s the most rewarding thing. When it successfully navigates a really complex and dynamic space and just gets on with the job. It’s unobtrusive, it just carries on.”

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The robot can scan an aisle in about 90 seconds, a fraction of the time it would take a human to do.

It doesn’t get bored, distracted and presumably, doesn’t make mistakes. The goal: fewer empty shelves, and better selection.

Walmart is testing the robot in 50 stores across four states.

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Shopper Deborah Espinoza was at the Walmart store in Milpitas and spoke with an employee about the robot.

“Wow, so it’s like taking somebody’s job?” Espinoza asked.

A Walmart employee said, “It’s not taking someone’s job. It’s designed to improve the job.”

“Oh really?” Espinoza responded.

Espinoza was skeptical. She works at San Jose International Airport and says when automated checkout was introduced there, cashiers were laid off.

Walmart says they are freeing up their associates to provide better customer service. We asked Espinoza if she buys that.

“Uh, no. No,” Espinoza said.

Walmart says it is still too early to say how the robots will impact their workforce.

Tiffany Wilson with Walmart said, “So, it may change the types of jobs, because technology changes the types of jobs that we have. But nothing will replace customer service and human interaction and being with other people, and being serviced, by a human.”

Comments (78)
  1. John Fox says:

    Yep … happening all over the country as unskilled adults took jobs that were better suited to high school students living at home and were never meant to be lifelong careers for heads of families demand wages that are out of proportion for the supply of unskilled workers willing to do the job for less.

    I’ve worked in retail, and was paid accordingly. Oh .. wait .. I was a teenager then too.

    1. Illegal aliens, robots and self driving cars and trucks. How will all those Californians make a living when all the jobs are gone. As lower level jobs disappear for Americans, the public will have less money to spend which will cause more unemployment up the job pyramid.

      1. You’ve got 3 of the main 6 points right (only left out $15/hr min wage, effects of CA Prop47, and rising housing and living costs – including taxes). We’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg right now, as far as the CA urban “homeless” problems are concerned… it’s only going to get worse as the effects of automation, rising minimum wage, rising living costs continue to increase.

    2. A small army? They are TESTING 50 robots in 50 different stores. That probably falls under Very Small Army?

      Anything any store can do to make sure the shelves are stocked and the prices are low is great for the consumer. Keeping shelves stocked is a major problem for any store. No product on the shelf, no sale and an unhappy customer.

  2. What could go wrong?!!! LOLOLOL

    1. Go to the auto care section and get a window sun screen. Hold it in front of the robot. It was stall out. That’s gonna be a problem.

  3. WalMart does seem to have their employees conned.

  4. Ted Gonzalez says:

    The Goal: to get rid of the employees. They’ve been planning this all along. to get rid of humans. Min wage is too much money for Walmart- in the face of amazon kicking it’s ass -so they’ll go with these machines and that will pay for itself in a year or two.
    The left doesn’t get it. They want technology, they want wellfare and to not work, and so the tech-left is responding and giving them their robots, to displace even more people from working..
    Welcome to what the remainder of the 21st century technocracy looks like.

  5. PS Galvanek says:

    “Because the robot uses LIDAR and other video cameras, what the robot actually sees is very similar to what a self-driving car sees.”

    Does that mean it will run people down in the isles as well?

  6. ATTENTION CLEANUP ON ISLE 5. Robot stuck on wad of gum…..

  7. I’m all for it. The workers at Walmart do not help you anyway.. let the robots take over.

  8. The problem with all those outs on the shelf, is that the merchandise is in boxes in the back of the store, unloaded because hours were cut, productivity is very low, and the employees never stocked them.

  9. David LaPell says:

    These minimum wage mental midgets are protesting themselves right out of a job.

  10. Stu Pedasso says:

    One of the advantages of having humans doing that job is they can help you find something if you’re having trouble. A f’n robot, not so much.

  11. Tom Genin says:

    Unskilled Walmart Employee: “I want $14, no $15 per hour.”

    Walmart:”We bought robots, you’ll get nothing and like it.”

  12. Well, it’s either cutting costs to compete or all the sales and jobs to will go to Amazon. Retail stores are going out of business left and right.

  13. Walmart was pushing for illegal alien employees since Obama took over. They’ve been taken over by liberals in the boardroom. Spending billions on social issues. The aisles are a disgrace. Out of stock 2 or more days of the week. No planning. No estimating. No inventory adjustments for each store for anticipated purchases. You guess which day stock arrives in store. Other days, might as well not go. Got tired of going with a list and walking out with only a couple things. Stopped going last summer.

  14. Have some fun, while shopping through the isle, pick up items and place them in other locations up front, among different items. Watch the toy and see what it does.

    1. I was thinking just that. HAVE SOME FUN at Wal*Mart.

  15. This is exactly how the Empire started.. You think it’s a coincidence that Walmart’s logo is nearly identical to Vader’s Empire?

  16. Paul Roberts says:

    Why are major corporations replacing people with robots, contract workers or illegals? Because they can. Why are so many I.T. jobs going contract? Because they can. There are no laws to protect people from being replaced by contract workers, illegals or robots. Bring this up to the local politicians and make it clear if they do not protect human jobs they do not get the vote. This is the only way we can survive is to fight back. Strength in numbers at the voting booth.

  17. I wonder if the robots will be programmed to avoid eye contact and generally discourage being helpful as well, just like the employees.

  18. If you don’t like this, do as I’ve BEEN doing for DECADES: stay the hell out of WalMart…………….glad I’m not one of those addicted shoppers I call WalMartians.

  19. I should be able to walk up to the robot and say, “Where is the distilled water and the coconut milk?”

  20. Jim Wolfson says:

    If your job can be done by a robot, it will be.

    Instead of whining about not getting $15/hour for unskilled busywork, you discover the true minimum wage, always and everywhere, is zero. So suck it, union thugs.

    But look on the bright side – these machines could replace democRats, too!

  21. Susan Smith says:

    In our local WalMart, very seldom are things in the right place when stocked. You have to compare bar codes on item to shelf code to what price you might get charged when you check out.

  22. Brought to you by liberals who gave us the $15/hour minimum wage.

  23. Walmart, Where America Farts!

    1. This is why kids shouldn’t have phones.

  24. Something with an artificial power source that requires programming is NOT! ‘autonomous’.

    Only Jesus Christ, the sole error-free thinker in the exclusively symbolic visible universe, who has full authority, power and wisdom, thus is empowered by original God-power can be called “autonomous”.

  25. Many products are the exact same shape and size. If you want to troll the robot just walk around the store and rearrange those items 🙂

  26. A $15.00 minimum wage is rediculous. These low scale jobs are not meant to support families and used to be held by high school kids for spending money. However these minimum wage increases are only speeding up the use of AI and robotics it was going to happen anyway. This is the first time tech advancements is costing more jobs than it is creating. This trend will continue. We have to figure out how to deal wuth this new paradigm. People must be assisted with their economic needs but also have ways to attain self worth and not just become mindless drug addicts etc.

  27. Hal Slusher says:

    Regardless the only way humans survive is either with robots or we start doing what Nazi’s did kill off the non productive. Actually I truly believe that America will have to close the borders before we are over run with the poor and starving from 3rd world countries.

  28. Tony Tyler says:

    ahahaha well there you go.. that is your replacement for $15.00 an hour… anyone who voted for it you own it now.. Can not blame Wal Mart at all…..

  29. I just read an article that said according to their survey, Humans actually prefer to deal with a robot than to have to deal with a human face to face. So what the Walmart woman says is not true. Still, I went to a McDonalds and used a kiosk to order my Quarter Pounder with Cheese, fries and soda. I paid with my card and in less time than it took to actually stand in line and order the same meal at other times, a ‘waitress’ brought my meal to the table, and yes, I loved it. Only question I had upon leaving was, ‘do I tip her, for simply carrying my food to the table’? LOL.

  30. Zak Watson says:


    Everybody says there is this RACE problem. Everybody says this RACE problem will be solved when the third world pours into EVERY white country and ONLY into white countries.

    The Netherlands and Belgium are just as crowded as Japan or Taiwan, but nobody says Japan or Taiwan will solve this RACE problem by bringing in millions of third worlders and quote assimilating unquote with them.

    Everybody says the final solution to this RACE problem is for EVERY white country and ONLY white countries to “assimilate,” i.e., intermarry, with all those non-whites.

    What if I said there was this RACE problem and this RACE problem would be solved only if hundreds of millions of non-blacks were brought into EVERY black country and ONLY into black countries?

    How long would it take anyone to realize I’m not talking about a RACE problem. I am talking about the final solution to the BLACK problem?

    And how long would it take any sane black man to notice this and what kind of psycho black man wouldn’t object to this?

    But if I tell that obvious truth about the ongoing program of genocide against my race, the white race, Liberals and respectable conservatives agree that I am a naziwhowantstokillsixmillionjews.

    They say they are anti-racist. What they are is anti-white.

    Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white.

  31. Derek Farley says:

    So where do they put the tramp stamp? What would robot “bottom biscuits” look like?

  32. And fine and good , except machines don’t shop.

  33. Jim Toney says:

    Don’t they know what they bought and put on the shelves, and don’t they scan everything bought so they know what is leaving? So why do they need robots to know what’s left?

  34. Bye WalMart. I’ll do my business elsewhere in places that value human beings attempting to make a living instead of machines. Just lost my business.

  35. Progress. When the car replaced horses people lost jobs but a whole new world of jobs was created. An unskilled worker is only worth so much an hour otherwise they are replaced by something more efficient.

  36. All these Tech Executives with liberal political philosophies but developing technology that only displaces middle class workers – the same people they say they are sympathetic to. Shameful.

  37. Fred Bailey says:

    Wonder what the “minimum wage requirements” of these robots will be?
    My bet is that they won’t stage a walk-out for $15/hour

  38. I say it’s not going to work. Waste of money. I have seen what happens to factories when they have robots takeover. Constant chaos, always not working right or breaking down and needing expensive repairs. Eventually they will figure it out that humans can not be replaced.

  39. All you people complaining about people wanting increased wages and unskilled labor need to wake up and understand it’s not their fault and that this is due to the deindustrialization of America. There is not enough high paying jobs in this country to go around so people are forced to take whatever they can get. That means taking one or more McJobs to make a livable wage and make ends meet. College is too expensive for most people and those who attempt to go to college end up with huge loans they can not pay back. Just because a few people get lucky and they look down their noses at everyone else who hasn’t been so lucky, not everyone can be so lucky when there just isn’t enough jobs with a livable wage. Hopefully Trump will be successful in getting more jobs to return to America.

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