Thursday, October 19, 2017
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Lowe’s Introduces Robot Shopping Assistant

With the Lowe's OSHbot, a customer can bring in a spare part and scan the object using the bot's 3D sensing camera. After identifying the object, OSHbot will provide product information to the customer and help guide them to its location on store shelves. Photo courtesy of PRNewsFoto/Lowe's.
With the Lowe’s OSHbot, a customer can bring in a spare part and scan the object using the bot’s 3D sensing camera. After identifying the object, OSHbot will provide product information to the customer and help guide them to its location on store shelves. Photo courtesy of PRNewsFoto/Lowe’s.

How many times have you discovered you’re short a few parts? Say, for example, you need a few more bolts to complete a project. You probably tuck one away in your pocket and take it with you to the store, so that you can find the identical bolt when you get there. But you still spend 30 minutes in the store, finding the right aisle and staring at a wall of nearly identical bolts.

Lowe’s is introducing a pair of robots to solve that problem, and other simple customer quandaries. Two OSHBots are being deployed at an Orchard Hardware Store in San Jose, California, to study robot-human interaction and see whether the bot is ready for wider release. (Orchard Hardware is a division of Lowe’s.)

The mobile robot can scan an item presented by a customer, such as a nail or bracket, offer info about the item, and then guide the customer to the product. The robot will also assist with real-time inventory management, and be able to connect customers to employees at other stores when necessary.

“Using science fiction prototyping, we explored solutions to improve customer experiences by helping customers quickly find the products and information they came in looking for,” said Kyle Nel, executive director of Lowe’s Innovation Labs. “As a result we developed autonomous retail service robot technology to be an intuitive tool customers can use to ask for help, in their preferred language, and expect a consistent experience.”

Developed by Fellow Robotics, SU Labs and Lowe’s Innovation Labs, the OSHBot primarily uses a touch screen and a voice recognition system to interface with humans. Interesting features include a laser-based, autonomous navigation and obstacle avoidance system, as well as a human body frame detection system. OSHBot stands about five feet tall and weighs 85 pounds. So let’s hope that obstacle avoidance system works well!

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