Monday, February 9, 2015

Will Store Robots Take Jobs Away from Human Sales Assistants?

What next, hamburger flipping robots?

As robots start to take over retail, will there be any jobs left?

The world’s first robotized sales assistants were rolled out last month in California. They are nifty, cute — and terrifying.
Modal Trigger
OSHbot, named after Orchard Supply Hardware in
San Jose, and developed with Lowe’s Innovation Labs, costs $50,000.
Nicknamed OSHbots, the two machines cost $50,000 apiece, are 5 feet of plastic on wheels and carry built-in natural language processors, computers, product scanners and navigation tools.
Named after the Orchard Supply Hardware store where they work in San Jose, they greet customers, ask if they need help, identify items, then offer to guide them to the appropriate aisle without bumping into anyone or anything.

At night, they do inventory by cruising the store to identify missing products and update their store map.

The OSHbots will never ask for a raise or call in sick. They also have the recall of a National Merit Scholar, but, on the other hand, they can’t open a box or climb a ladder to reach a hammer. And if you went up to one and shouted “Fire,” it would respond that “Fire extinguishers are on aisle 4 and I can take you there” . . . in English or Spanish.

So far, OSHbots are primitive, as are other automated services, such as Google’s driverless cars. But they won’t always be. Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple and others are investing billions to make machines smarter than people. And then what happens to America’s 13 million-member retail work force when OSHbot 2.0 or 3.0 arrives on the scene? Are Google and the others going to support the displaced workers

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