Walmart has turned one of its smaller-format locations into what it calls the Intelligent Retail Lab, or IRL, which has artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled cameras, interactive displays, a massive “glass-encased data center bathed in blue glow” and “enough processing power to download three years’ worth of music [27,000 hours] each second.”
The retailer said it will be “in data-gathering mode” to start, including a test of “new, innovative ideas,” such as detecting on-shelf products to trigger out-of-stock notifications for 30,000+ items, as well as making sure shopping carts are available and registers are open. It will look at more futuristic concepts thereafter.
“With technology performing mundane tasks like evaluating if shopping carts need to be corralled, associates will be able to spend more time on tasks humans can do best, such as helping customers or adding creative touches to merchandise displays,” a blog post says.
Walmart said the store has educational kiosks and a Welcome Center to help customers understand “exactly how AI makes the store tick.” It also has displays flanking the data center, one of which “encourages participants to move around and learn how technology reacts to body positioning.”
Mike Hanrahan, CEO of IRL, called this particular location in Levittown, New York, “a unique real-world shopping environment designed to explore the possibilities artificial intelligence can contribute to the store experience.”
It is the latest project from Walmart’s Store No. 8 incubator and follows the recent deployment of 1,500 autonomous floor cleaners and 300 shelf scanners throughout Walmart’s U.S. locations.