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Meet Tally, a robot that endlessly roams around and scans retail store aisles

It might not be too long before a trip to the grocery store involves dodging Tally, a new robot designed to tootle from aisle to aisle while taking note of stock levels.

Tally’s Silicon Valley creators, Simbe Robotics, point out that most retailers currently rely on IT systems and manual labor to manage inventory, but call this method “costly and inaccurate.” Tally can apparently do full-store audits in a fraction of the usual time, keeping staff up to date on what items are running low so that shelves can be quickly refilled.

Simbie says Tally’s ability to carry out such “repetitive and laborious” auditing tasks means human staff can get on with serving customers directly.

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The 96-cm-tall bot is fitted with sensors to record the state of the store’s stock, with the compiled data sent to the cloud for processing and analysis. Other on-board sensors stop it bashing into shelves and, more importantly, customers.

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An instructional report is automatically produced from the collected data, allowing staff to see which items need replacing or tidying up. It’ll also point out misplaced products (what do you mean you’ve never offloaded an unwanted item on a random shelf?) and could even include specific recommendations aimed at improving the store’s performance.

Tally comes with a charging dock to which it can autonomously navigate between scans, enabling pretty much non-stop operation.

“When it comes to the retail industry, shopper experience is everything,” Simbe Robotics CEO and co-founder Brad Bogolea said in a release. “If a product is unavailable at the time the shopper wants to buy it, the retailer has missed an opportunity and disappointed their customer. Tally helps retailers address these challenges by providing more precise and timely analysis of the state of in-store merchandise and freeing up staff to focus on customer service.”

If current trials of Tally show it to be genuinely effective in improving the shopping experience for customers, and offers retailers efficiency improvements while freeing its regular workers from the mundane task of stock taking, this clever little creation could well find its way into brick-and-mortar stores far and wide.