Supermarket Chain Enlists Googly-Eyed Robots to Clean Up Spills
They're all named Marty!
Robots have been picking up a lot of food service industry jobs lately. PepsiCo just unleashed a fleet of snack-wielding, self-driving robots across the University of the Pacific's Stockton, California campus, Stella Artois invented an attachment that can turn your robot vacuum into a personal bartender (or, more accurately, a cater waiter—it can't make drinks but it can serve them), and now, supermarket chain Giant Food Stores has jumped on the AI train with a team of six-foot-three-inch googly-eyed cleaning-bots, all named Marty.
Created by autonomous robot company Badger Technologies in partnership with Dutch food retailer Ahold Delhaize (a.k.a. Giant Food Stores' parent company), Marty can, according to a press release, "identify hazards, such as liquid, powder and bulk food-items spills and provide reporting that enables quick corrective action." Nick Bertram, president of Giant, told Adweek that he'd eventually like to use Marty to address out of stock products as well. “Bringing robotics and A.I. from a research lab to the sales floor has been a very exciting journey, and we were thrilled by the customer response in our pilot stores,” Bertram said in a statement. “Our associates have worked hard to bring this innovation to life with amazing partners.”
As for the googly eyes, while Marty navigates store aisles via a laser-based detection system, Bertram said in that same Adweek article that Giant wanted to personify the bots a bit to “[make] it a bit more fun” for customers and “not hide it, but celebrate the fact that there’s a robot.” So far the plan has worked—Marty has become something of a draw in Giant stores, with customers abandoning their shopping carts to take selfies.
While you won't find a Marty in every Giant location just yet (there are 172 stores across Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia), the company plans to roll out the bots "in waves," completing the project by mid-year.