Walmart Lays Off Robots, Replaces With Humans
On November 2nd, 2020, the popular retailer Walmart announced that they were ending their deal with the robotics Bossa Nova Robotics, which had been experimenting with shelf-scanning robots for the last year. Walmart came to the conclusion that human workers could perform the job of inventory management just as efficiently as the robots.
The main goal of this technology was to utilize artificial intelligence to track store inventory and manage products. Many other robotic technologies have also been implemented at various Walmart locations, including cleaning and unloading robots, but these are not associated with Bossa Nova and will continue to be implemented by Walmart into the foreseeable future.
Bossa Nova and Walmart had been testing out the technology in a limited amount of stores for as far back as 2018, but it seems that Walmart found this technology to be inefficient. Walmart did not list their reasons for ending the partnership, though the pandemic seemed to play a factor in some way. The CEO of Walmart U.S., John Furner, had also previously expressed concerns regarding how shoppers may react when seeing robots wandering the store aisles.
It seems that the end of this contract has had a very negative effect on Bossa Nova, who has had to lay off almost 50 percent of its employees since the contract officially expired. Bossa Nova may not be finished yet, though, as many other retailers had expressed interest in the technology being utilized while it was being tested.
In a statement provided to TechCrunch, Walmart’s director of robotics, Michael Torrey said “Ultimately this is not the direction we want to go. We are committed to the retail and eCommerce space but will always look for innovative technologies that add value to our customers and associates.”
The discontinuation of the partnership is likely to be the end of Bossa Nova’s work for Walmart, as the robots have been a big focus for the retailer’s robotics team.