Hardware and home furnishings store Lowe's is to begin staffing its 11 Bay Area stores with autonomous helper bots as soon as this month. Dubbed the LoweBot, the San Francisco Business Times reports that the machines are designed to interact with customers and take over the inventory duties of flesh and blood employees.
"This is a response to things people wanted since retail began, but up until now there just wasn't the technology to be able to make that happen," executive director of Lowe's Innovation Labs Kyle Nel, perfectly understanding that all shoppers want is to never have to talk to annoying human beings ever again, told CNBC.
The robots speak numerous languages, and have a touch-pad interface. And although they are relatively limited in the number of tasks they can accomplish, Nel thinks the problem they do solve — making it easier to find out where stuff is in a store — is a crucial one. "The LoweBot solves and serves our common cold problems," he explained. "When I walk into a store and I want to know where something is I want to know right then — I don't want to have to download an app — a robot can really help with that."
While the LoweBot was first tested out an Orchard Supply Hardware store in San Jose before being debuted on a wider scale, how the public at large will react to it remains to be seen. The Stanford Shopping Center, for example, had to pull its autonomous security robot from use after reports that it knocked a toddler to the ground and then ran him over.
The LoweBot's proximity and access to power tools of all kinds, for example, is of no cause for concern for those fearing a robot uprising. Nope, no cause at all.