Well, we’ve moved one step closer to having robots take over the world.
Lowe’s, the big box hardware store (motto: “We’re nothing like Home Depot. Our vests are red.”) is testing robotic employees that can do everything their human counterparts can except send you to an aisle that is as far away as possible from the one you want.
It rolls up to an unsuspecting customer, introduces itself, and then calls the paramedics when the customer has a heart attack because a giant talking sandwich board just scared the hell out of him.
The bots are being tested in a Lowe’s subsidiary called Orchard Supply Hardware, which, if you go by the promotional video they have posted online, never has more than one customer at a time. The robot, called OSHbot, rolls up to the single customer and says, “Hello, I am OSHbot. What can I help you with today?” in a voice that sounds like the robot has eaten the lady in your GPS.
If I was the customer. I might reply, “Where can I find something to seal cracks in my driveway?” The bot would then lead me to the appropriate aisle, at which point I would say, “Which of these is the easiest to use?” (because I’m a total idiot when it comes to any product one might find in a hardware store), and the bot might point out one brand, which would lead me to ask “Can you come home and do this for me?” which would force OSHbot to smack me if it had any arms. It doesn’t, though, so I don’t know how it will be able to wear the red vests.
According to the video, you can actually just show the robot a random screw that you for some reason had left over after assembling something, and it could bring you to where those screws are in the store, even though you didn’t want more of those screws, you just wanted to know why you had this one friggin’ screw left over.
Or does that only happen to me?
It’s good that, for the purposes of the video demonstration, there are no other customers in the store, although it’s probably bad for business in the long run. If you’ve ever been in one of these places on a Saturday morning, you’ll find it hard to imagine a large robot rolling through the aisles without causing serious injuries. Not to mention the damage to the robot caused by the moron carrying two by fours over his shoulder who suddenly turns around to yell “Hey, honey, look at the robot” to his wife and knocks OSHbot’s noggin to Oshkosh.
The robot even speaks multiple languages, so that if you talk to it in, for instance, Romanian, it can reply in Spanish.
According to the video, this test run is the result of work done in Lowe’s “Innovation Lab,” which works tirelessly to improve the customer retail experience with things like self checkout which speeds things along by having patrons form a line behind someone who could not locate a bar code if it was printed on his eyeglasses.
In the video, the head of The Innovation Lab (right), tells us the goal of his department is to “make science fiction a reality.”
This, I believe, is a horrible thing to say when you are talking about robots. I mean, has the head of Lowe’s Innovation Lab never seen Terminator? He sure looks like he’s seen Terminator. He looks like he’s seen Terminator at least 30 times. Does he really think it’s a good idea to give Daleks and Cybermen the run of a hardware store? I wouldn’t even trust a Roomba in a place with power tools.
How long will it be before OSHbot somehow armlessly picks up that DeWALT DCN692M1 Cordless Nail Gun in Aisle 3 and chases down the guy with the two by fours over his shoulder while he’s waiting at the self checkout behind the person looking for the scan code on the roll of duct tape? OSHbot will then politely announce “Estamos hartos de que los seres humanos”* and shoot a nail right into the guy’s ear.
You work in a hardware store and want to make science fiction a realty? How about perfecting those self-cleaning gutters?
See you soon.
*”We’ve had enough of you humans,” at least according to the online translator I used.