Walmart to open an in-store AI lab
Walmart is creating an Intelligence Retail Lab for developing artificial intelligence technology and applications inside of a Walmart store located in Levittown, New York, according to a TechCrunch report.
The retailer wants to use AI technology to explore both store associate-facing and customer-facing applications, including the ability to track and replenish low supplies of inventory, detect numbers of shopping carts available at the store entrance and other capabilities, the report said.
The AI developments are being pursued by Walmart's Project Kepler technology team, which was previously thought to be working on cashierless store concepts similar to Amazon Go, the story stated.
It has been developing a number of technologies with in-store applications and implications, and these developments have been happening in a variety of different environments. Walmart Labs has several outposts around the country, from Silicon Valley, to Washington, D.C., and has continued to hire new talent to these locations throughout the past year as it has sped and strengthened its pursuit of innovation.
Among the retailer's new technology paths, Walmart's startup incubator Store No. 8 in California has been working with virtual reality and other technologies, while a new team of Walmart and Microsoft employees has been assembled in Austin to work on cloud technologies, including cloud-based data analysis aimed at physical store operational efficiencies. Another recent development at the retailer was an augmented reality-based price-scanning feature to be used in stores.
Walmart is now creating another new center of technology development, and the placement —inside of an actual store— is tantalizingly close to the store operations, associates and customers the innovations will impact. AI is no doubt central to the technology developments Walmart is pursuing in many locations around the country, but the Levittown store lab puts Walmart in a position to test, evaluate and tweak its AI developments quickly in a live environment.
Project Kepler was previously reported as the name tag for the Amazon Go-like store experience that Walmart was working on a year ago. It's not clear if the same team is working on both efforts, or if they are intermingled in some way — the sector may just have to wait and see what comes out of Levittown. Walmart, in any case, has a lot of innovation irons in the fire at a time when technology has never been more critical to brick-and-mortar store success.