If you are at a supermarket and happen to see a tall, slim machine checking out products nearby, don’t be alarmed. You might just have come across the Tally robot from Simbe Robotics.
Tally is a robot that performs the repetitive and laborious tasks of auditing shelves for out-of-stock items, low stock items, misplaced items, and pricing errors. It operates during normal store hours alongside shoppers and employees.
This collaborative nature of Tally is what makes it special. While most robots are still meant to work behind the scenes, like in warehouses, Tally can be entrusted with tasks at the front end.
“Robots are already playing a very big role in the larger retail industry, but largely behind the scenes,” said Brad Bogolea, CEO of Simbe Robotics. “Amazon's Kiva robots, for example, have been working in large warehouses for some time now. Our robot is different because its front and center in retail store; sharing space with customers and workers. This is a very new development but a very substantial opportunity.”
And there is no other product quite like it, according to Bogolea, making Tally the first of its kind with nothing to compare with. The company differentiates itself from the existing processes around inventory and shelf auditing, which it claims to be very inefficient.
“The business case for Tally is clear-cut,” Bogolea said. “US$448 billion lost by retailers annually because of out-of-stock and shelf inventory issues. Combined with the fact that existing methods are only 65 percent accurate and that it takes Tally 30 minutes to inventory a store and the economics and customer benefit are definitive.”
Working alongside humans, safety is a priority for the company. Tally is friendly-looking, but not so friendly that people will want to interact with it. It is designed to be non-threatening and left alone to do its work.
Bogolea expects robots to play an increasingly important role, not just in retail, but in a range of other fields as well. He suggested that customers could look forward to seeing more of the machines as they go to shop.
“Robots sharing space with customers and co-workers is a relatively new development, but the floodgates are opening,”Bogolea said. “Don't be surprised to see all manner of robots in front of the store applications. Large retailers are also serious about improving last mile delivery applications through delivery robots and drones. Expect to see robots playing a more visible role in nearly every industry.”
Image: Simbe Robotics