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A shelf-scanning bot at Walmart. Photo: Rick T. Wilking/Getty

Walmart has offered a glimpse at how it plans to move its stores into the future, announcing the addition of 3,900 aisle-mopping and shelf-scanning robots to its floors.

Reality check: Though 3,900 robots is a massive deployment, the impact to jobs will be significantly diluted as those bots are spread across 4,700 stores, says Darrell West of the Brookings Institution.

Among the bots joining Walmart's workforce: 1,500 autonomous janitors, 300 shelf-scanners, 1,200 truck unloaders and 900 pickup towers that put items ordered online into a vending machine for customers to retrieve.

The big question: Walmart says the workers whose jobs these bots will replace will move to "more fulfilling" customer service work. But can the company really absorb the impact of automation?

A common refrain among companies that add scores of bots alongside human workers is that they will free up humans from menial tasks to do more interesting work.

Experts worry that only a portion of humans will actually be "freed up," and the rest face layoffs.

What’s happening at Walmart:

  • In many cases, such as with the truck-unloading bot, the machines are doing jobs that Walmart has long had difficulty filling anyway, says spokesperson Ragan Dickens.
  • Walmart says it also has added 40,000 new online grocery picker jobs — people who assemble shopping bags for online customers — in the last two years.

But, but, but: As robots' capabilities expand, they could come for those and other jobs Walmart says it is setting aside for humans, says Brookings' West. "Automation could threaten jobs because robots likely will perform many routine tasks. The company already has introduced self checkout and is experimenting with automated checkouts."

Go deeper

Ipsos poll: COVID trick-or-treat

Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Note ±3.3% margin of error for the total sample size; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

About half of Americans are worried that trick-or-treating will spread coronavirus in their communities, according to this week's installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: This may seem like more evidence that the pandemic is curbing our nation's cherished pastimes. But a closer look reveals something more nuanced about Americans' increased acceptance for risk around activities in which they want to participate.

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: The good and bad news about antibody therapies — Fauci: Hotspots have materialized across "the entire country."
  2. World: Belgium imposes lockdown, citing "health emergency" due to influx of cases.
  3. Economy: Conference Board predicts economy won’t fully recover until late 2021.
  4. Education: Surge threatens to shut classrooms down again.
  5. Technology: The pandemic isn't slowing tech.
  6. Travel: CDC replaces COVID-19 cruise ban with less restrictive "conditional sailing order."
  7. Sports: High school football's pandemic struggles.
  8. 🎧Podcast: The vaccine race turns toward nationalism.
Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Updated 10 hours ago - Economy & Business

Dunkin' Brands agrees to $11B Inspire Brands sale

Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Dunkin' Brands, operator of both Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, agreed on Friday to be taken private for nearly $11.3 billion, including debt, by Inspire Brands, a restaurant platform sponsored by private equity firm Roark Capital.

Why it matters: Buying Dunkin’ will more than double Inspire’s footprint, making it one of the biggest restaurant deals in the past 10 years. This could ultimately set up an IPO for Inspire, which already owns Arby's, Jimmy John's and Buffalo Wild Wings.

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