Tech companies detail ‘retail robots’ that can help stock shelves

Two tech companies are sharing timely details on their retail-focused robots, plus a warning that the machine is not designed to “replace” humans.

The machine, designed by Simbe Robotics, originally debuted several years ago, but according to Brad Bogolea, the company’s founder, its assistance is more helpful now than ever.

“So with COVID-19, we think there’s a stronger case now more than ever for automation and better data within retail,” Bogolea told the Associated Press. “We think that will drive greater adoption of robotics.”

Simbe’s device, called the Tally, has been referred to as a “retail robot.” That nickname refers to its ability to glide through grocery stores, pharmacies and other department stores, scanning shelves and taking an inventory of items.

That job, which would usually be handled by a person with a scanner and an inventory list, can now be done seamlessly and without operating other customers. According to Sibme’s website, the Tally is able to navigate around customers while performing its job.

“The goal of Tally is to help ensure our product is always stocked in the right place and has the right price,” Bogolea added.

Bogolea’s machine isn’t alone either. The AP also reported that Brain Corp, a tech company based in San Diego, believes its own retail store robot can take on a greater role during the global health crisis.

That machine is an automatic floor cleaner that, just like the Tally, is able to perform its job while avoiding customers and other workers. But the product is not a replacement for humans, according to Phil Duffy, Brain Corp’s vice president of product.

“We’re not trying to replace a human and the companies that generally do try to do that in robotics often fail, because humans are so flexible and can perform so many other tasks,” he told the AP. “So really we are an advanced tool that allows them to perform at a higher productive level that really enables them to focus on the higher-value tasks that robots aren’t good at.”

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