Helping Robots Roll Around This Retail Chain

There is a robot that ‘rolls’ around answering simple customer questions, finding certain items on the shelves and in the inventory and guiding customers through the store. It even has an option to video chat with an expert.

OSHbot was developed by Orchard Supply Hardware (owned by Lowe’s) in collaboration with Singularity University and will be found at Lowe’s Home Improvement.

Lowe’s Innovation Lab’s wanted to make the future of robotics a reality by creating beneficial partnerships with technological startups.

“We focus on making science fiction a reality.” – Kyle Nel, Executive Director of Lowe’s Innovation Labs

The OSHbot is a white, 5-foot-tall natural language processor (it can detect multiple languages) with a set of wheels. It has two video monitors and two lasers for navigation and ensuring the robot doesn’t run into anything. It also has a 3D scanner to recognize certain items.

How it works is that customers can show the robot an item that they don’t know the name of and through the 3D scanner, the robot is able to identify the item and see if they have any in stock. By knowing what the item is, the robot also knows where it is located in the store therefore guiding the customer to the correct isle.

If for some reason the robot is unable to help the customer, the robot uses its live video chat by wirelessly connecting with the experts from Orchard Supply Hardware.

Although this may not be the first time we’ve seen a robot like this of its kind, it’s particularly interesting due the sector that it’s established in. It creates innovation in a new sector that we’ve already seen previously such as Google’s laser guidance for self-driving cars in the automotive industry. The adaptation with 3D scanning software would also be inevitably used in the creation of robots.

By incorporating already used, technological features into the robots, the future of OSHbots could also be able to recognize faces and customer attentiveness/basic emotions.

Lowe’s Innovation Lab will be testing their robots in the real world in San Jose. Surely, they do not expect everything to go smoothly, but it could be the stepping stone to the future of customer service.