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Robot invasion: Walmart to deploy thousands of automated assistants

Walmart currently deploys a small number of robots at its stores across the United States, but this week it says it’s “going big” with the technology, rolling out thousands more machines so that its human workers can spend more time helping customers.

So what exactly is Walmart planning? Well, the deployment includes 1,500 autonomous Auto-C floor cleaners, 300 Auto-S shelf scanners to monitor inventory, 1,200 FAST Unloaders that automatically scan and sorts items delivered by trucks, and 900 Pickup Towers that functions like a giant vending machine for customers collecting orders that they placed online.

According to Walmart, the robot rollout means that customers will have a better chance of finding a member of staff if they need assistance, while improved inventory management should ensure items are always available on the shelves.

Walmart has been testing its different technologies for some time and the company says the response from its store workers regarding their robot co-workers has been “overwhelmingly positive.”

Commenting on the decision to significantly expand the use of automated machines at its stores, John Crecelius, senior vice president of central operations for Walmart U.S., said staff at its stores “immediately understood the opportunity for the new technology to free them up from focusing on tasks that are repeatable, predictable, and manual.”

He added: “It allows them time to focus more on selling merchandise and serving customers, which they tell us have always been the most exciting parts of working in retail.”

As you can tell, the executive is keen to point out that Walmart’s robot army will not be replacing its human workers. Such a robot uprising — in the workplace at least — is an issue of growing concern for many employees across a range of industries. The matter was brought into sharp focus by the World Economic Forum last year when it forecast that machines may be capable of performing half of all “work tasks” globally by 2025 — that’s equal to around 75 million jobs — though we should point out it also estimated that more than 130 million human jobs could be created during the same time-frame.

Digital Trends has taken a look at some of the occupations that might succumb to robot technology in the not-too-distant future, and some of the suggestions may surprise you.

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Trevor Mogg
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