If you're sick of roaming hardware store aisles in vain searching for that specific widget, try asking a robot for help. At least that's what's retailer Lowe's suggests you do. This holiday season it will equip one lucky location with handy robotic sales reps ready to assist customer requests with the efficiency and determination perhaps only an electronic brain and motorized wheels can deliver.
Called OSHBot, these fully automated gadgets (two to be exact) will patrol the San Jose, California Orchard Supply Hardware store on the lookout for shoppers in need of assistance. According Lowe's, which own's the Orchard Supply Hardware chain, OSHBot has the chops to answer simple verbal questions such as where to find a certain type of product, etc.
The really impressive trick OSHBot can perform, however, is scan physical objects customers place in front of it then advise hardware hunters where (or if) it can be located on the premises. We're talking tools, screws, pipes, you name it. Built in collaboration with robotic firm Fellow Robots and the Lowe's Innovation Labs technology incubator, the OSHBot is even designed to help hardware shoppers in multiple languages.
The OSHBot isn't the first wild idea to come out of the collective imagination of the Lowe's Innovation Labs. The outfit also unveiled this summer its, a way to virtually construct home improvement projects before shoppers commit to the big purchase.
It remains to be seen whether you can expect OSHBot machines to roll through an Orchard Supply Hardware or even Lowe's store near you. What's also unclear is if the OSHBot represents a vanguard of robotic workers designed to replace actual human help.For this to happen though, these droids will have to truly excel at their tasks. Let's just say we aren't exactly holding our breath.
Still, Lowe's itself envisions expanding the trial number of OSHBots in each store from two to four or even six. Kyle Nel, executive director of Lowe's Innovation Labs confirmed that the plan is for these machines to find their way into typical Lowe's stores not just one test location. Nel did admit, "We have to see how things go in a real environment and see how it works." You can bet we'll have our eyes peeled for one of these gizmos at large as well.