Walmart’s New ‘Store Of The Future’ Is Empowered By AI, Not Human Beings

Walmart / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Walmart's new futuristic store boasts AI-powered cameras and sensors to help monitor stock quantities.

This morning, Walmart revealed a brand-new “store of the future” and prototype incorporating emerging technologies such as interactive displays and cameras using artificial intelligence, TechCrunch reports. The store, a test grounds titled the Intelligent Retail Lab—”IRL” for short—is situated in a Levittown, N.Y. Walmart Neighborhood Market.

IRL is now open to customers and contains over 30,000 items, Walmart says. The store allows Walmart to try out new technologies in an actual shopping environment. IRL resembles Amazon Go’s convenience shopping stores in that a generous number of cameras decorate the ceilings. But Walmart’s new store, unlike Amazon’s small, grab-and-go locations, contains over 50,000 square feet in shopping space and employees more than 100 people.

In addition, the AI-backed cameras in IRL aren’t being used to determine what customers buy to actually charge them as in Amazon Go’s case. Instead, the cameras monitor stock quantities on the sales floor to alert staff if an item needs to be restocked. It also ensures that customers are guaranteed fresh meat and produce.

According to Walmart, the complex technology needs to be able to differentiate between two similar products, such as a one-pound package of ground beef versus a two-pound package. The sensors, cameras, and other equipment require the store to use 1.6 TB of data each second—the equivalent of three years’ worth of music. As a result, the IRL store has a large data center on-site and in display in glass, blue-light cases.

But the technology will help store associates know exactly what items they need to bring from storage rooms to put on shelves, eliminating the task of monitoring on-floor quantities manually.

Read the full story here.