Lowe’s is introducing a fleet of multilingual robots at one of its Orchard Supply Hardware stores to help out with customer service, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The 5-foot-tall robots, called OSHbots, will greet customers at the door and ask them what they need, according to a video posted by Lowe’s Orchard Supply Hardware Co. store in San Jose, California, where the first robots will be located.
Customers will be able to communicate their needs verbally or by selecting items from a touch-screen menu displayed on OSHbot.
Customers can also show OSHbot what they are looking for by displaying an item, such as a screw, in front of the robot’s 3D scanner.
OSHbot can immediately report on whether the item is in stock, and will lead customers through the store to locate it.
“Retail really hasn’t changed much in the last couple hundred years,” Kyle Nel, executive director of Lowe’s Innovation Lab, says in the video. “The robots are the first thing that can really change the customer experience.”
The robot uses the same sensors as Google’s driverless cars to avoid collisions and every night it updates its map of the store’s inventory.
Nel told Ad Age that the robots aren’t meant to replace retail workers.
“What our sales associates are amazing at doing and what they love spending time on are consulting and helping customers with their projects and solving their problems,” Nel said. “We can let the robots answer questions like, ‘where are the hammers?'”
Lowe’s hasn’t said whether it will expand the robot program to other stores.
A recent study by the University of Oxford concluded that as much as half the U.S. workforce is at risk of being replaced by mobile robots and “smart” computers within the next two decades.
Retail jobs were among the occupations most at risk.
Lowe’s worked with Singularity University and a startup called Fellow Robots to make the customer service machines a reality.
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