Carnegie Mellon Develops a Retail Robot, Replaces Employees With Machines

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[Credit: Carnegie Mellon]
Watch out retail workers, you might just be replaced someday by this small, hooded worker-bot.

AndyVision is the latest retail robot experiment created by the researchers from the Intel Science and Technology Center in Embedded Computing at Carnegie Mellon University. The robot is designed to help keep track of store inventories and assist customers in finding products.

AndyVision is equipped with a Kinect sensor along with a combination of image-processing and machine-learning algorithms. The robot’s on-board computer comes with a database of 3D and 2D images of the store’s products, as well as a basic map of the store’s layout.

A typical workday for AndyVision includes autonomously strolling around the store while checking all the shelves for low stock or misplaced items. All the information the mechanical worker collects is sent back to its fellow iPad-carrying human staff. At the same time, the same information is fed to a large touchscreen interface that customers can use to browse a virtual version of the store.

So far, AndyVision has been rolling around the Carnegie Mellon University campus store since mid-May. The robot has helped the staff increase their knowledge of where everything is.

By this fall, the researchers hope to find out if the robot has done anything to actually increase the store’s business. The scientists also hope to test out their AndyVision system in several other local stores after they have finished their initial campus store trial.

While this seems like the expected progression of robots and technology, I have a feeling that this could spark a new Luddite movement similar to the one at the beginning of the industrial revolution--also, we’re so doomed!

[ISTC Embedded Computing via Technology Review and Engadget]

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