Robots Gain Popularity in Retail Grocery Stores

Marty assisting in inventory control

Have You Met Marty?

He’s made by Badger Technologies and only one of five robotic systems currently in place in grocery stores throughout the U.S.  He checks inventory, alerts staff to spills on the floors and directs customers to various store locations.  As of April 2020, 172 Giant Stores and 325 Stop and Shops have used Marty who, by the way, speaks both English and Spanish.  Another is Tally made by Simbe Robotics who performs similar functions and employees can get data from the robot every 30 minutes. 

Then there’s Alphabot from Alert Innovation who speeds up the fulfillment of online orders with a unique picking skill and utilizes a human worker for finalization.  Walmart reported that Alphabot currently assists with 20% of its online grocery orders. In Woolworths, Australia, you’ll find Millie, similar in many ways to Marty except that Millie will actually clean up the spills. 

Finally, we have SmartSight EMA50, the supermarket robot that assists with inventory management.  It uses machine learning and computer vision to spot low stocks and pricing errors and they claim it reduces inventory time by 65%!

SmartSight EMA50

Check out the shopping carts in China at 7-Fresh

In the Chinese grocery store 7-Fresh, their robots double as shopping carts!  First the customer must download the app and scan a QR code located on the robotic cart.  This allows the cart to move autonomously and follow a person around the store, scanning items that are placed in the cart.  When they are ready to check out, they pay with facial recognition.

Over to Tokyo where an exciting twist to Robotics is taking place.

It has a boomerang-shaped head with its eyes spaced widely apart, strange looking hands that can grab things with suction cupped thumbs and big shoulders to aid in shifting movements as it works tirelessly behind the scenes on your behalf.

Humanoid Bot in Tokyo

You won’t be able to see this humanoid robot when you enter the Family Mart or Lawsons convenience store in Tokyo.  It’s hard at work in the back stockroom ensuring that the shelves are stocked so that products are readily available for purchase, and this is only one of the many daily tasks that it performs.

But there is something uniquely different about this bot…and that is how it takes its orders. It is controlled remotely by someone working in a different location in Tokyo, maybe miles away wearing a virtual-reality headset.  This particular robot (there are only a few working outside company labs at present) was built by Telexistence, a Tokyo-based startup whose mission is to “make robotics exponentially more relevant” and “to enable a person to do any job on earth from anywhere else.” 

This type of technology is known as telepresence and broadly speaking it allows someone to interact with people or things in a different place just as if they were there.  They might be controlling drones remotely or acting as an instructor in a different country…without time or distance restrictions. 

The humanoid test bot in Lawson’s isn’t perfect yet, by any means.  You or I could probably stock the shelves faster than the bot right now…but give it some time.  Eventually all the necessary training data from this robot will be used to train AI (artificial intelligence) to take over some of the tasks.

What does it all mean for jobs in the future?  Well, let’s be thankful that all activities are not done by remote control and that human presence is still required.  Sure, there are not as many people needed in an Amazon Go store these days with cashierless checkout…but someone has to design and manufacture the systems.

There is much R&D still needed to perfect such robotic applications and in most cases it’s still in the early stages…but it appears everyone is eager and open to the potential value of using bots in the future.  It’s just one of the many things that continues to make the food business exciting.

Lily Noon


  1. Telexistence,
  2. What Robots Can Do for Retail, Ben Forgan, Harvard Business Review
  3. Japanese Robot to Clock in at a Convenience Store, Jim Kelly
  4. 5 Robots Now in Grocery Stores Show the Future of Retail, Kayla Matthews
  5. Remote Work Isn’t Just for White Collar Jobs Anymore, Christopher Mims
  6. Schnuck Markets Rolls Out Shelf-Scanning Robots, Russel Redman, Supermarket News
  7. Robotic Automation Is Transforming Grocery Retail –

Martyに会われましたか?Badger Technologiesが開発したMartyは、現在、米国の食料品店で使われている5つのロボットシステムの一例にすぎません。在庫を確認し、床が濡れていればスタッフに知らせ、お客さまを店内のさまざまな場所に案内しています。2020年4月時点で、Giant Storesの172店舗、Stop and Shopsの325店舗で、Martyが使われていました。ちなみにMartyは、英語とスペイン語のバイリンガルです。また、Simbe Roboticsが開発したTallyも、同じような業務を遂行し、30分ごとに従業員にデータを提供します。

さらに、Alert InnovationのAlphabotは、オンラインの注文対応のスピードアップに貢献します。独自のスキルでピッキング作業をこなし、人間のスタッフの承認を仰ぎます。Walmartは、このAlphabotを導入していて、現時点でオンラインの食料品注文の20%に使用しています。オーストラリアのWoolworthsでは、Millieが活躍しています。Martyと似た仕事に当たっていますが、Millieは濡れた床を清掃することができます。

そしてもうひとつ、スーパーの在庫管理を支援するSmartSight EMA50があります。機械学習とコンピュータビジョンを駆使して、在庫が減っている商品や価格表示が間違っている商品を見つけることができ、在庫管理の時間を65%削減するという触れ込みです!

SmartSight EMA50










これらのトレンドは、未来の仕事にとって何を意味するのでしょうか。ひとつ言えるのは、すべての作業がリモート制御で行われるわけではなく、人間の存在がなおも必要だということです。その点をありがたいと思うことにしましょう。もちろん、レジ会計のないAmazon Goの店舗では必要な店員の数が少ないのは事実ですが、誰かがこれらのシステムを設計・製造しなければなりません。


Lily Noon


  1. テレイグジスタンス、
  2. What Robots Can Do for Retail, Ben Forgan(小売店でロボットができること)、Harvard Business Review
  3. Japanese Robot to Clock in at a Convenience Store(ロボットが勤務する日本のコンビニ)、Jim Kelly
  4. 5 Robots Now in Grocery Stores Show the Future of Retail(食料品店の5つのロボットが示す小売業界の未来)、Kayla Matthews
  5. Remote Work Isn’t Just for White Collar Jobs Anymore(リモート勤務がホワイトカラー以外にも拡大)、Christopher Mims
  6. Schnuck Markets Rolls Out Shelf-Scanning Robots(Schnuck Marketsが棚をスキャンするロボットを導入)、Russel Redman、Supermarket News
  7. Robotic Automation Is Transforming Grocery Retail(ロボット自動化が食料品店を変える) –

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