Many still work in stores, selling stuff, but the reality is that today’s retail industry is powered by a variety of staff employees, gig workers and artificial intelligence.

The changes reflect shifts in what shoppers want — lower prices and more convenience. Shopping, even in stores, now involves technology that is altering the way we interact with sales staff.

For instance, in a Walmart in Phillipsburg, N.J., Wall-E starts the day at 4 a.m., rolling through the aisles, scanning the shelves and looking for “outs” — any item that needs restocking.

The robot has a long white neck, bright spotlights and 15 cameras that snap thousands of photos, which are transmitted directly to its colleagues’ hand-held devices, telling them exactly which shelves need restocking.

After it finishes scanning, Wall-E parks itself in a remote corner of the store next to a bright blue sign that says “Our People Make the Difference” and takes a “nap” to recharge its batteries.

Wall-E works two shifts, seven days a week, in the Walmart supercentre in Phillipsburg, a former railroad and industrial hub on the Delaware River.

Designed by robotics company Bossa Nova, Wall-E is one of 350 robots at Walmart stores across the U.S. Their purpose is to free up employees to interact with customers or focus on other initiatives like Walmart’s push to deliver groceries to customers ordering online. This month, the store in Phillipsburg hired 22 employees, and it is looking to hire 25 more.

Employees have embraced the robot, said Tom McGowan, the store manager, because it performs a tedious task no one likes — cataloguing out-of-stock items. (Walmart allows store employees to name each robot. Wall-E wears a name badge like every other worker.)

Customers have different reactions: A few children have tried to ride the robots, while many adults ignore the devices and keep shopping. Some ask whether robots are taking jobs away from humans.

“I tell them, ‘No, I actually have openings,’” McGowan said. “‘Would you like to apply?’”

Source: The Star