OSHBot Robots are the New Hardware Sales Rep

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It is such a pain when you’re searching for a specific product at the hardware store and are hopeless. Next time try asking a robot for help.  The retailer, Lowe’s will be equipped with a handy robotic sales representative to assist customer requests with the efficiency and determination only an electronic brain and motorized wheels can have.

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The robots are called OSHbots and they will patrol the San Jose, California Orchard Supply Hardware store, whose chain is owned by Lowe’s. The robots will be on the  lookout for shoppers in need of assistance.  OSHBots will have the ability to answer simple questions such as where to find a certain type of product.  The OSHBot stands 5 feet tall, weighs 85 lbs and looks like a while pillar with a couple of flat screens stuck on front and back.  Its head is a 3D scanner that can detect a human body standing in front of it and it has a smart laser sensor to avoid collisions.

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What’s really cool about the OSHBot is that it can scan objects that customers place in front of it then advise them where, or if it can be located in the store. It can also help hardware shoppers in multiple languages.  The OSHBots were built in collaboration with robotic firm Fellow Robots and the Lowe’s Innovation Labs technology incubator.  Marco Mascorro, chief executive officer of Fellow Robots says “The last decade was one of rapid technological advancement and prototyping, especially in robotics.”  The main objective of the project was to take autonomous retail service robot technology into the consumer market.

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There are some questions we have regarding the OSHBots. For one, can we expect OSHBot machines to roll though an Orchard Supply Hardware or even Lowe’s store near you?  Also, if the OSHBot does its job efficiently does it mean human help will be replaced?  Lowe’s hopes to expand the trial number of OSHBots in each store from two to four, maybe even six.  Kyle Nel, executive director of Lowe’s Innovation Labs confirmed that the plan is for these bots to be placed in all Lowe’s stores, not just one test location.  Hopefully these bots will make visits to megastores less intimidating, especially when you have no idea what U-bends and junction boxes are.