The good old days of the helpful hardware man, hardware woman or hardware teen appear to continue to fade.
Big box building materials stores put automated tellers in a few years ago, enabling shoppers to ring up their own lumber, nails, plumbing items and other home improvement goods. But that innovation knocked out jobs that people once had in the checkout aisles.
The rational was that more workers could be in the huge stores helping customers find what they needed. But now Lowe’s is testing mobile robots designed to help people easily get the items they want.
The robots are called OSHbots. They have two black screens on each side and wheels for mobility, The Associated Press reports. They have 3-D cameras so they can scan and identify items for people.
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Shoppers can use the screens to examine items, and then the robots can take people to the aisles where the goods are. There is no waiting for a store employee to check in back to see whether an item that’s not on a shelf is in the inventory. The robot already knows what’s in stock.
The robots also speak English and Spanish. The test market, after all, is San Jose, Calif. Lowe’s a year ago began working with a Silicon Valley, Calif., technology company, Fellow Robots, to develop the innovation.
If it works, look for the technology to spread.