Walmart has ended a plan to replace human workers with robots in a bid to automate some tasks at its stores.
The Wall Street Journal’s Sara Nassauer reported the news:
Walmart Inc. WMT 1.19% has ended its effort to use roving robots in store aisles to keep track of its inventory, reversing a yearslong push to automate the task with the hulking machines after finding during the coronavirus pandemic that humans can help get similar results.
The retail giant has ended its contract with robotics company Bossa Nova Robotics Inc., with which it joined over the past five years to gradually add six-foot-tall inventory-scanning machines to stores. Walmart had made the robots a frequent topic of conversation at media and investor events in recent years, hoping the technology could help reduce labor costs and increase sales by making sure products are kept in stock.
The AP reported:
Walmart said in a statement it has “worked with Bossa Nova for five years and together we learned a lot about how technology can assist associates, make jobs easier and provide a better customer experience.” It said it is still testing other new technologies for tracking inventory and moving goods.
Brian Heater and Kirsten Korosec from TechCrunch noted:
Bossa Nova co-founder Sarjoun Skaff didn’t confirm nor deny the WSJ report, instead issuing a no comment. He did, however, weigh in on the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on the company, seeming to confirm that some layoffs had indeed occurred.
“I cannot comment on Walmart, however, the pandemic has forced us to streamline our operations and focus on our core technologies,” Skaff said. “We have made stunning advances in AI and robotics. Our retail AI is the industry’s best and works as well on robots as with fixed cameras, and our hardware, autonomy and operations excelled in more than 500 of the world’s most challenging stores. With the board’s full support, we continue deploying this technology with our partners in retail and in other fields.”