By the end of the year, Stop & Shop will have installed 500 “giant, gray, aisle-patrolling robots” in its chains of stores, reports Mashable, starting in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Jersey.
“Attention shoppers: I’ve seen the future of grocery store technology, and let me tell you, we can do better.”
Each of the robots weighs a massive 140-pounds and costs a whopping $35,000. Oddly, all of the robots are named Marty, and atop their tall frames — which tower over my own 5 foot, 3 inch stature — rests a large pair of google eyes. You know, so as not to come off as complete faceless, emotionless, lifeless bots. If you’re confused as to what these rolling mechanical columns do, Martys also wear the following description on their bodies like a name tag:
This store is monitored by Marty for your safety. Marty is an autonomous robot that uses image capturing technology to report spills, debris, and other potential hazards to store employees to improve your shopping experience.
Essentially, once Marty identifies a hazard using its sensors, it stops in its tracks, changes its signature operating lights from blue to yellow, and repeatedly announces “caution, hazard detected,” in English and Spanish. One of several catches to their existence, however, is that the robots don’t actually clean anything…
[O]ne of the robot’s major flaws that its sensors appear to treat each hazard with the same level of caution. A harmless bottle cap or errant piece of cilantro will elicit the same response as a spill of clear liquid that someone could genuinely slip and injure themselves on, which means that in certain cases an employee may have to take time that could be spent interacting with a customer to walk across the store and grab a puny little grape that escaped a bag.
One customer complained on Twitter that the robot “just roams around and makes ominous beeps constantly.”
And one employee confided told the New Food Economy site that “It’s really not doing much of anything besides getting in the way.”