Walmart Inc. (NYSE: WMT) has announced that it will be bringing robot janitors to some of its stores in the U.S. by the end of the January. A fleet of 360 autonomous floor-scrubbing robots will be rolled out to various stores across the nation. The store locations and number of robots allocated to the chosen stores has not been disclosed.
San Diego-based startup Brain Corp. makes the machines that Walmart will be using for this venture. Brain develops software — BrainOS — that allows machines to operate with autonomy in closed environments. Brain Chief Executive Office Eugene Izhikevich said in an interview, “We can take anything that has wheels and turn it into a fully autonomous robot, provided that it can go slow and stopping is never a safety concern.”
Brain’s robots are already in use at airports in Seattle, San Diego, Boston, and Miami. The robots are equipped with an array of sensors that let them to gather and upload data, which could be used for a wide range of functions. The company has speculated that in the future, the robots could be deployed for security patrol and deliveries inside big-box stores.
Walmart said the robots would free up its workers from redundant work. John Crecelius, Walmart’s vice president of central operations, said in the statement, “BrainOS is a powerful tool in helping our associates complete repetitive tasks so they can focus on other tasks within role and spend more time serving customers.”
The main purpose of the machines will be to scrub the floors of the stores on a regular circuit. The machines need to be operated by humans at first, which will program the machine with the layout of the space that needs cleaning. After that the robots can perform the task on their own. The robots can even clean floors when customers are around due to sensors that scan for people and obstacles nearby.