Lowes Testing Robot Store Associate: Goofy, But Then Again …
October 28, 2014 by Dave Haynes
Lowes Innovation Labs is testing and planning to deploy in a Silicon Valley store, not a big-ass Lowes but a smaller chain it also owns, a roaming robot that will answer questions and lead you to the particular fastener, tool or whatever you are looking for.
This thing looks like a Jetsons robot and moves at about the speed of lava. My instant reaction was that it is gloriously stupid and it will take about a day before an errant 2X4 econo-stud takes out a screen.
BUT … watch the video and you start to get a sense that the OSHbot, as it is called, has some nice things about it. The robot is absolutely a gimmick, but I do like that you can walk up to a screen, show what you are looking for – let’s say a 3.5 inch coated screw with a Robertson (invented in Canada!) head. The embedded camera does pattern detection and tries to match it up. I also like the multi-language support – something that isn’t done anywhere near enough in interactive.
Following a robot around a store would be fun … once. But the novelty would wear off and I think most people would prefer to have an app tied to beacons around the store that would get them to the right shelf. The damn thing’s gonna break down, and you just know people will put wigs on it and give it a moustache or tail when no one is looking.
I also think when it comes to hardware and home improvement, there’s a lot of value and importance in talking to a store associate … as in “That’s the wrong thing to use, it will rust, etc.”
Despite the reservations, hat tip to Lowes for trying stuff.
Ad Age story about this (warning – inevitable Minority Report reference).