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A googly-eyed robot is coming to 172 grocery stores across America

Business Insider logo Business Insider 1/20/2019 Dennis Green
a store filled with lots of luggage © Giant Food Stores  

Soon, "cleanup on aisle seven" could have a more robotic tinge to it.

Giant Food Stores announced on Monday it will be introducing a robot called Marty to its 172 stores in the United States. Marty's primary purpose is to roam around the store autonomously, pointing out hazards for store staff to clean up. It announces its findings through the store PA system and pages employees.

But Marty likes to have fun.

"Instead of just being a 6'3" robot, we actually made it look a bit more like a human. So, you see the googly eyes," Nick Bertram, president of Giant, said during a panel at the National Retail Federation's annual Big Show conference. "And yes, they do kind of swing around."

In fact, the robot has become a bit of a celebrity inside the stores, with children gravitating toward it and people taking selfies with it.

a large machine in a store © Giant  

"What's really cool and what we did not expect until we started piloting this is that our customers actually loved it," Bertram said. "We thought it might freak some of them out, and of course it did freak some of them out."

Employees, he said, are similarly unafraid, and they're being freed up to serve customers instead.

"As much as it replaces that task, it doesn't replace those people," Bertram said.

Bertram said he sees Marty as more of a platform that can have additional functionalities - like shelf-scanning for out-of-stocks - added to it.

Marty was piloted in two Giant stores for the last year. Badger Technologies developed and runs Marty, and it's in charge of the 172-store rollout that will take place through the first six months of 2019.

Read more: Walmart reveals why it has robots roaming the aisles in 50 of its stores

The rollout is the largest yet of a robot designed to operate in the front of a retail store while customers are there, according to Steven Keith Platt, director and research fellow at the Retail Analytics Council, a joint venture between Northwestern University and the Platt Retail Institute. Platt spoke on the same panel at the NRF conference.

Giant is not the first to use robotics in the front of the store, however. Walmart has been gradually expanding a test of Bossanova's stock-taking robot as well as testing automatic floor-scrubbing robots.

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