Robots in action at select Bay Area Walmart stores

MILPITAS, Calif. (KGO) -- Dozens of Walmart stores across the country, including three locations in the South Bay, are now testing automation to handle tasks that are repeatable and predictable.

ABC7 News was at the McCarthy Ranch Walmart in Milpitas as customers saw the AI technology in action for the first time.

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Robots have been deployed to scan shelves for out-of-stock items, and check for incorrect prices, as well as mislabeled items. The data is collected in real-time and then transmitted back to a cloud database which associates can check to see what needs to be replenished.

The automated units are being produced by Bossa Nova Robotics, which is headquartered in San Francisco's Dogpatch neighborhood. Company officials tell us the new shelf-scanning technology took nearly six years to develop.

In addition to Walmart, Bossa Nova Robotics employees are also currently working with three other national retailers to test the technology. Walmart officials say the robots will help free associates to focus more on delivering a better customer service experience.

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Some customers expressed concern about the role of automation in retail and the possibility of jobs being eliminated. However, others believe the technology make their trips to the store smoother.

Walmart insists the project is still in pilot mode, as the company works to gather feedback from its associates and customers on whether or not the robots are getting in the way. The robots, which engineers liken to a self-driving vehicle, will likely be used during the early-morning hours unless additional testing needs to be conducted throughout the day.

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