Walmart Is Giving Up on Its Inventory Robots


Unplugged Tour

After a years-long push to automate its stores with helpful worker robots, Walmart Inc. is pulling the plug.

While Walmart plans to experiment with some kinds of robots and automated tech, according to The Wall Street Journal, the retail giant will no longer use robots to scan shelves and track inventory. It turns out that people still do the job better — and were less likely to creep out both workers and customers.

Simple Solution

It turns out that commissioning a robotics firm to develop mechanical workers just to check whether a shelf was empty wasn’t the most cost effective way to keep an eye on inventory. For the foreseeable future, the WSJ reports, humans will handle the job instead.

“We learned a lot about how technology can assist associates, make jobs easier and provide a better customer experience,” a Walmart spokeswoman told the WSJ. “We will continue testing new technologies and investing in our own processes and apps to best understand and track our inventory and help move products to our shelves as quickly as we can.”

Bitter Reality

Unfortunately, the news was devastating for Bossa Nova, the robotics firm that provided Walmart with its inventory robots. The firm, a Carnegie Mellon University-born startup, laid off half of its staff as it tries to drum up replacement business.

“We see an improvement in stores with the robots,” Walmart told Bossa Nova, someone familiar with the deal told the WSJ, “but we don’t see enough of an improvement.”

READ MORE: Walmart Scraps Plan to Have Robots Scan Shelves [The Wall Street Journal]

More on Walmart robots: Walmart Employees Hate Their New Robot Coworkers

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