It came out of nowhere: A muffled, mechanical voice with electronica undertones called out “Hel-lo there.” It was leering down at me and a few other eTail West attendees: Over 7’6”, a fiberglass robot straight out of a Transformers movie with giant glowing blue eyes and dark mechanical fingers that looked as if they had 300 psi of hydraulic force – enough to crush a car.
Of course, this robot was a ContentSquare-emblazoned suit with a person inside, but the subsequent conversation was surreal. “Can I take a picture?” a fellow attendee blurted out. “Cer-tain-ly. Step ov-er here for a nice-ly lit shot,” in staccato English with the eerie, deep mechanical voice. The neurons in my head started firing.
Suppose this robot was real? The technology is mostly here. We have natural language processing, basic AI functionality, robotic prosthetics, centralized controllers. Now – how about if we gave it a bit more capability – perhaps even manage basic functions in a retail environment. How about pick and pack capabilities, identifying objects on store shelves and labeling processes. What about moving it to the front room and engaging with actual customers? I’m sure it could handle basic questions such as where to find my size 34 jeans or directions to the restroom. Add a camera or two and it becomes a surveillance device as well – mobile and dynamic for loss prevention and security. Maybe even a checkout with a torso based kiosk to scan items and a POS.