Innovation That Matters

This robot might be your next store assistant


Robot store assistant could be the world's first truly robotic customer service employee, after being trialled at Lowe's hardware store.

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Supermarkets and department stores have already invested heavily in technology such as self-service checkouts that automate the process of scanning products and taking payment in-store. But could the job of a store assistant also soon be replaced? We recently wrote about Germany’s Findbox, a kiosk that directs customers to the items they’re looking for. Now OSHbot could be the world’s first truly robotic customer service employee, after being trialled at Lowe’s hardware store.

Developed by Silicon Valley-based Fellow Robots in conjunction with Lowe’s Innovation Labs, OSHbot is a human-sized, autonomous machine. With a slew of technologies, it can carry out many of the customer service tasks of a human store assistant. It’s able to navigate its way around the shop floor using sensors to avoid colliding with displays or people. Using body and voice recognition, it can detect when a customer has approached for help and respond to their query.

Customers can use the on-board scanner to scan either the barcode of an item from the store.  This allows them to learn more about it, or any other object that they’re looking for. For example, holding up a screw to the scanner will bring up the different types of screws that Lowe’s has in stock. It will also provide details about each one, on its front display. If the customer needs to know where to find them, the robot will take them to the right shelf.

When not interacting directly with customers, both the front and back screens can be used to present location-relevant store promotions and information.

Watch the video below to see the robot in action:

The Lowe’s experiment certainly showcases the possibilities that robotic technology has in the retail sector. It will be interesting to see how consumers react to this kind of machine assistant. Are there other customer-facing sectors that could benefit from investing in robotics?



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