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Hardware store robot helps shoppers find productsLowe's Innovation Labs introduces the OSHBot at a San Jose, Calif., Orchard Supply Hardware store. CNET's Sumi Das takes a look at the Linux-based robot that not only knows the store's inventory, but also guides customers to items.
Amidst the aisles of the San Jose hardware store, customers may find some very high-tech help. I can help you find things in the store. Ashbot is the newest member of the Orchard Supply Hardware sales staff. There's no way that every asso, store associate could know the exact number of location of every single item that we sell. The robot can do that. Inside this five foot tall Linux running robot are two computers. I'm looking for screws. Speech recognition helps Osch Bot understand customer needs. Stored in Osch Bot's memory are a map of the store and its inventory. So the robot can show you where a specific **** is on screen. Or guide you there. I think I'm here. So the roller can navigate by its own and explore without any additional things that we need to put in the store like magnetic paths or things like that. Everything's built in the robot. Censors, microphone, cameras, [UNKNOWN] finders, ladders, all that is built in. To keep up with any changes, OSHbot brushes up on the store's layout after hours. It navigates by its own. At night, when no one is here, to create a map. And that map reduces for the next day in the morning, it knows where the products are located, it knows where to go. What OSHbot can't do is offer how-to advice. The robot may not be able to help you fix a leaky roof, but it could do something that a salesperson finds difficult, break down language barriers. Translating 35,000 product names is tricky. But a Spanish language database should roll out in the coming months. A 3D camera could help with another common problem. You come in with the one random hinge or nail, and you don't know what it's called but you know you need 20 of them. The camera could scan the item and tell you if it's in stock. A salesperson's memory might get rusty. But Oshbots? Not likely. In San Jose, I'm Sumi Das. c|net.com for CBS News.