Does anyone have the self-control to actually resist those shelves full of impulse purchase snacks at most checkouts? Apparently they do, because Mars Wrigley is stepping up its game with an autonomous robot that roams stores and tempts shoppers long before they head to the checkout.
The robot was developed by Mars Wrigley and a company called Savioke and has been nicknamed Smiley, even though the bot lacks a face. It looks more like an autonomous shelf that relies on various sensors, including LiDAR, to not only safely navigate a store, but also detect when a person caves into temptation and approaches Smiley to grab some snacks like gum and candy bars, at which point it will stop until the shopper walks away.
The robot is currently undergoing testing at a ShopRite store in Monroe, N.Y., which has recently been renovated with wider aisles to make it the perfect testing environment for autonomous shopping assistants like this and hands-free grocery carts.
Smiley isn’t just about pushing more product. Its host of sensors also collect data on shopper interactions, including how they move about the store. Imagine it as an alternative to someone with a clipboard walking around the store all day taking notes on how people move about, but successfully selling more candy while it does its job. That’s a win-win for the store and for Mars Wrigley, although it does paint a concerning picture of what the future of brick-and-mortar shopping might be like. If this idea catches on, every company that sells products through grocery and convenience stores is going to want their items to be mobile and able to follow a shopper.
If you thought having to politely acknowledge a greeter every time you walked into a Walmart was awkward, imagine stepping foot inside a store and having 20 robotic shelves come racing to you, begging you to buy a given item lest they find themselves in the scrap heap when they don’t hit a monthly sales target.