In Brief
Lowe's is releasing its LoweBot to selected Bay Area stores. The robot is designed to help customers find the items they need, and to help take inventory.

Integrating Robotic Technology

In an article at the Harvard Business Review, Andrew Ng (founding lead of the Google Brain team, former director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and now overall lead of Baidu’s AI team) notes that “the amount of work we can automate with AI is vastly bigger than before.”

How much bigger? A report from Mckinsey says that 51% of economic activity could be automated by existing technology. While there have been mishaps in integrating robots into everyday human life, it seems like these bots are here to stay. In fact, more and more stores and businesses are employing robot workers.

Now, Lowe’s can be added to that list. The home improvement giant is debuting the LoweBot, an autonomous retail service robot helper that can assist with basic store tasks.

A New Kind of Guide

This is actually not the first time we’ve seen this robot. Back in CES 2015, Lowe’s demonstrated its autonomous shopping assistant, then called the OSHBot (Orchard Supply Hardware). Now the robot is being released in 11 Bay Area hardware stores.
LoweBot will roll out in phases over a seven-month period beginiing in September in San Jolse, California, and will further explore how robots can meet the needs of both customers and employees.

“For nearly two years, we’ve studied how robots in our San Jose Orchard Supply Hardware store can help customers more effectively navigate the store to find products and assist employees with inventory scanning,” said Kyle Nel, executive director of Lowe’s Innovation Labs, the company’s disruptive innovation hub.

“When I walk into a store and I want to know where something is I want to know right then — I don’t want to have to download an app — a robot can really help with that” says Nel to CNBC.