Dec 20, 2018

Robots wander retail aisles

Photo: Kaveh Waddell/Axios

Bleeping and whirring through the aisles of a sporting goods store in downtown San Francisco, Tally — a tall, wheeled robot bristling with sensors — was doing what it promises: It was counting. The bot, made by Simbe Robotics and trundling through a Decathlon store, uses its sensors to read electronic merchandise tags, twirling this way and that to pinpoint products.

The big picture: Robots have long helped to assemble cars and move products around enormous warehouses. But Tally is the latest in a slow bot invasion into increasingly visible spaces, like sidewalks, malls and restaurants.

  • They’re taking up the roles of delivery workers, security guards and waiters.
  • Their makers insist, in a familiar line, that they’re not stealing jobs as much as freeing up humans to do better or more interesting work. That may be the case now, as the bots are tested, but not for long if they’re taken up in droves.

On a recent Friday in San Francisco, Tally checked up on water-sport gear during its daily round of Decathlon’s only U.S. location.

  • Tally is also used in grocery stores, where it generally roams the floor three times a day. Shelf-checking bots help store managers keep track of inventory — gathering sales data and preventing shelves from going empty.
  • Simbe CEO Brad Bogolea said the robot requires little in the way of support — just over 1.5 feet of clearance in the aisles and a charging dock that it can track down itself when it needs juice.
  • When first deployed, the robot uses lidar and 30 high-res cameras to map the new space, then it relies on smartphone-quality cameras and RFID readers for stock checks.

"Our customers love Tally," Bogolea told me at Decathlon. Soon after, a pair of shoppers jumped when they turned around to notice Tally waiting to pass. "That’s creepy," one shopper said. "You guys should know that."

Go deeper: Walmart’s shelf-scanning bots (ZDNet)

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Coronavirus dashboard

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  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 786,291 — Total deaths: 37,820 — Total recoveries: 166,088.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in confirmed cases. Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 164,620 — Total deaths: 3,170— Total recoveries: 5,943.
  3. Federal government latest: The White House will extend its social distancing guidelines until April 30.
  4. State updates: Rural-state governors say testing is still inadequate, contradicting Trump — Virginia, Maryland and D.C. issue stay-at-home orders to residents, joining 28 other states.
  5. Business latest: Ford and General Electric aim to make 50,000 ventilators in 100 days.
  6. In photos: Navy hospital ship arrives in Manhattan.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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World coronavirus updates: World Bank warns economic pain unavoidable

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

The novel coronavirus has caused a "global shock" and significant economic pain "seems unavoidable in all countries," the World Bank said in an economic update for
East Asia and the Pacific on Monday.

The big picture: COVID-19 cases surged past 786,000 and the death toll exceeded 37,800 early Tuesday, per Johns Hopkins data. Italy reported more than 11,500 total deaths.

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U.S. coronavirus updates: Death toll tops 3,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The U.S. death toll from the novel coronavirus has now surpassed 3,000, per Johns Hopkins data.

The state of play: The U.S. had by Monday night recorded more than 163,000 positive cases — more than any other country in the world, per Johns Hopkins. The COVID-19 death toll stood at 3,008. The number of recoveries had risen to more than 5,800.

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