Walmart experiments with expanding AI presence in stores

Walmart experiments with expanding AI presence in stores

Mike Hanrahan, CEO of Walmart's Intelligent Retail Lab, discusses a kiosk that describes to customers the high technology in use at a Walmart Neighborhood Market, Wednesday, April 24, 2019, in Levittown, N.Y. 

LEVITTOWN, N.Y. — Walmart has opened an experimental “Intelligent Retail Lab” at a New York store, using artificial intelligence to keep an eye on store needs.

The lab opened in a Levittown store Thursday, The Associated Press reported. It features thousands of cameras suspended from the ceiling, as well as sensors on shelves and other areas.

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The technology helps spot spills, track when shelves need to be restocked, when shopping carts are running low and when more cash registers need to be opened, among other functions to keep stores running smoothly.

Walmart officials hope to start employing the technology at more stores in the next six months.

“We really like to think of this store as an artificial intelligence factory, a place where we are building these products, experiences, where we are testing and learning,” said Walmart Intelligent Retail Lab CEO Mike Hanrahan.

The cameras are programmed to track products on shelves, and don’t recognize faces, Hanrahan said.

Walmart has also been experimenting with robots in its stores. In 2017, the retail giant rolled out robots at about 50 stores to help restock shelves, according to previous Cox Media Group reports. The stocking robots must have been successful, because Walmart officials announced April 10 the discount retailing giant would be deploying robots that scan shelf inventory at 350 stores, CNN reported.

The company also announced plans for autonomous floor scrubbers at 1,860 stores, and bots at 1,700 stores that automatically scan boxes as they come off delivery trucks and sort them by department onto conveyor belts.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.