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Could Walmart replace shopping carts with robots?

We already know about Walmart’s plan to use drones for delivering goods to the homes of its online shoppers in super-quick time, but what about the customers who still prefer to visit its physical stores? What can it do to improve their shopping experience?

One solution may come in the form of Budgee, a basket-carrying robotic helper that’s designed to follow you around the store as you shop.

Budgee’s creator, New Jersey-based Five Elements Robotics, said Walmart is considering using Budgee to replace its shopping carts, a development that would, if nothing else, bring a welcome end to the time-honored tradition of wrestling with your cart as you try desperately to get it to go where you want it to go.

Five Elements CEO Wendy Roberts told DT earlier this year that Budgee, which has been in development for several years, was primarily designed as a personal helper for folks in their home.

“It would be something that’s friendly, cute, something that they could develop a bond with,” Roberts said.

The sensor-laden wheel-based bot can follow its user by way of a keychain-sized transceiver, while a manual mode offers control via a smartphone app.

Roberts told DT that a number of companies as far away as China and Denmark have already shown interest in Budgee, while closer to home – besides Walmart – the University of Maryland is using the friendly-looking robot as a platform for its object-recognition software.

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While the retail giant has so far declined to comment on the possibility of introducing robo-carts, such a move would certainly fit with its ongoing interest in tech-related improvements to its business.

Besides its plan for drone deliveries, the company has already unveiled its own mobile payment solution, Walmart Pay, which works as part of Walmart’s smartphone app. It’s also spent plenty on improving its online shopping operation to compete more effectively with Amazon, building more online-only distribution centers. And earlier this month, we learned Walmart is testing new last-mile delivery solutions through partnerships with ride-sharing leaders Uber and Lyft.