While science-fiction has long offered us stories where robots attend to our every need, reality might not be as far from that dream either. Right now, robots are part of countless industries helping factory workers with complex tasks, delivering your packages autonomously, or simply cleaning your floor. Our robots don’t necessarily have limbs and walk like humans, but inventions like Roomba have paved the way for a future that has more automation and more mechanical support, and now the grocery store robot Marty has become the breakthrough in robotics advances. But who is Marty? Where did this robot come from? And what does it offer to its clients? You’ll need to read on to find out.
Marty is a model of autonomous service robots designed to support human employees on retail work by ensuring they can maximize the time they spend attending to customers instead of looking out for potential issues and spills to fix. The model is usually known as the Marty Stop and Shop robot since it became popular in that supermarket chain, but Marty can be found on Giant and Martin’s as well.
Each Marty unit is 6’3″ and is designed to look like a tower instead of the traditional humanoid form you might associate with fiction. Marty’s roll their retail store at fixed intervals detecting their surroundings and alerting human employees in case they detect an anomaly, with the intent of speeding up processes and supporting the human workers.
So now that we know what Marty is and how it looks, what can exactly a Marty robot do to support workers in the world of retail? It mostly comes down to detection and alerting, and they are first and foremost designed to alert workers of irregularities, as they can’t solve them on their own.
Each Marty unit is powered by a lithium battery and is embedded with multiple cameras that allow it to detect humans and other obstacles to successfully navigate the entirety of a store. During this process, Marty is constantly analyzing its surroundings and if it detects an irregularity it will proceed to alert workers with verbal warnings. In practice these irregularities come in two forms: Marty can either detect slip and trip hazards and warn a worker to clean it, or it can scan prices to check if there are incorrect or missing labels and once again warn an employee.
While Marty is one of the most discussed news stories when it comes to robots in stores, the fact is that it wasn’t the first one nor will it be the last. Pepper from SoftBank robotics was released back in 2015 and has been supporting employees in the Asian and European markets since then. Walmart similarly has adopted robots for cleaning and stocking tasks, to keep their human workforce free to interact with clients.
Current grocery robots are admittedly slightly limited in their functions, but as technology advances the grocery robots will be able to completely handle most of the delivery, stocking, and re-stocking logistics on their own and free countless minutes out of the schedule of workers all over the nation and the world. Robots might not look like humans yet, but we are already reaching a future where robot labor is a common part of our everyday lives.