A robot prowls the aisles of a Wal-Mart store in a test run of the autonomous device’s “mission” to check shelves and alert workers to stocking or pricing needs.

A robot prowls the aisles of a Wal-Mart store in a test run of the autonomous device’s “mission” to check shelves and alert workers to stocking or pricing needs.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. customers in a few Arkansas stores will soon cross paths with robots roaming the aisles.

The Bentonville company said it will begin using autonomous devices in about 50 stores next month that are programmed to scan store shelves and identify things like out-of-stock items or products incorrectly priced or placed in the wrong spaces. Wal-Mart stores in Searcy, Sherwood and Pine Bluff will be among the first to introduce the robots beginning in early November, according to the company. A Wal-Mart store in Rogers will have a robot early next year.

The 50-store trial is an extension of a test first conducted in Pennsylvania as the retailer explores ways to use technology to improve its operations. John Crecelius, Wal-Mart U.S. vice president of central operations, said the expansion will give the company a chance to collect and analyze additional data as the robots take on tasks typically done by employees.

“If you think about trying to go through a facility with all these different [items] and figure out if your prices are accurate, it can be very time-consuming,” Crecelius said. “Then to try to figure out what to do about it. Imagine how much time you’ve lost in doing all that.”

The robots being tested as a possible solution were produced by California-based Bossa Nova Robotics. Martin Hitch, the company’s chief business officer, said Bossa Nova has been developing the technology for five years and began a partnership with Wal-Mart about three years ago.

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SOURCE: Robbie Neiswanger 
Arkansas Online