Walmart has signed a deal for aisle-cleaning robots. The retail giant has agreed to purchase 360 floor-scrubbing machines, built by the San Diego-based Brain Corp.
From a press statement, it appears that the company has bought over 300 ICE RS26s, a model which Brain Corp. says "represents the next generation of robotic floor care." It's got a cleaning path capable of scrubbing 26 inches at a time and moves at a leisurely 2 mph while functioning autonomously. Put it under manual control and it can hit 4 mph. According to Walmart, the robots are named Auto-C.
The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer is the United States' single-largest employer. The company employees over 1.5 million workers within its US operations.
The robots will require initial assistance from employees. According to the press release, store employees will take the robot on "an initial training ride" where the employee will map out a route through the store. From there, the employee will be able to "activate autonomous floor cleaning with the press of a single button."
The slow-moving robot will then use multiple sensors to scan for objects and people as it goes about its duties.
Dr. Eugene Izhikevich, CEO of Brain Corp, said in a statement
"BrainOS technology allows robots to effectively and safely function in complex, crowded environments, ensuring increased productivity and efficiency across applications. We look forward to continuing to work alongside Walmart to help build intelligent, connected stores."
The robots will be tidying the aisles by January 31, 2019.
A study from Forrester Research in 2017 predicted that while automation has the potential to add 14.9 million jobs by 2027, it also has the potential to eliminate 24.7 million other jobs. Automation has become an increasingly large factor in the American workplace over the last decade. Companies from Sierra Nevada to Ford have began ushering forth automation in their factories. Amazon has been testing object-grabbing robots in competitions for years.
Now, it's Walmart's turn.