Human error is a frustrating, yet accepted and somewhat necessary component of natural life. But if anything is clear in recent years, a certain attitude pervades technology leaders around the world: natural life sucks.
Here at The Fresh Toast, we’ve documented the machines steadily winning against humanity. Is it techno-paranoia that flows through our membranes? No, this article — written on a laptop, powered by free coffee shop WiFi, uploaded to a cloud server, and edited across Slack/email channels — wouldn’t be possible otherwise. But techno-caution? Yes, we have that.
The latest example raising our eyebrow is called Tally. It’s an AI robot that measures retail shelves, analyzing if an item is missing. All with the quick download of a retail store’s layout — which most shop owners already have — Tally can roam the aisles, recording when a product needs restocking, ensuring customers will always be able to buy Doritos or Mountain Dew whenever they want.
Automating routine work for retailers will save large amounts of lost revenue for owners. According to the analyst firm IHL Service, retailers lose potentially billions of dollars due to missing product, messy shelves, or items not being where they’re supposed to be.
Brad Bogolea, CEO and cofounder of Simbe Robotics, says his company’s robot can scan the shelves of a small store, like a modest CVS or Walgreens, in about an hour. A very large retailer might need several robots to patrol its premises. He says the robot will be offered on a subscription basis but did not provide the pricing. Bogolea adds that one large retailer is already testing the machine.
Tally resembles a column-shaped robot resting atop a platform, roaming around beige tiles on its four wheels. Through restocking automation, Simbe Robotics believes it will allow employees to focus on more important efforts, like customer service.
— Ben Wood (@benwood) August 17, 2016
However its real-world application has received some push back. Joe Jones was involved with iRobot and Harvest Automation as a robotics engineer and entrepreneur. Here’s what he told the Technology Review: “In a real-world environment the robot may not behave as effectively as it does in the lab or even in a supportive beta test site.”
Can robots function in the natural world? It doesn’t matter, because they’re coming anyways.
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that Tally stock the retail shelves, but rather takes inventory of the shelves.
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