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Big-eyed robots in supermarkets are really annoying people

Of course you need a robot to monitor the aisles of your grocery store. And of course people will either stare or resent its very presence.
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Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributor on
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This could be a love or hate thing.

Screenshot by ZDNet

I always thought that the most precious thing in retail was space.

Every last square inch has to be utilized to its fullest, so that when the data analysts descend you can justify the monetary returns on every one of those inches.

Yet, for reasons that might not seem entirely sane, some supermarkets have currently placed bizarre, startled-eyed, smiling robots in their aisles in order to, well, who knows?

I know this because of a tweet emitted by New York Times columnist Kevin Roose.

His stance was relatively kind: "My grocery store got a robot that is supposed to monitor the aisles, but it can't get to the aisles because people just stand around staring at it."

Please, take a look at humanity's fascination with beings that look like they've been imported from an 80's children's TV show.

Roose may be in the minority with his sanguine stance.

For he reported the reactions of others: "A woman just called the robot a 'fuckin dumbass' and told it to get out of her way. New York City!"

I fear such a reaction wouldn't be confined to New York.

Even in the more genteel places, I worry that there could be cases of robot assault, as has occurred with security robots.

And really, the robot itself can't be all that happy with all this attention. It has a job to do.

Why, in one case a security robot was suspected of flinging itself into a fountain because it hated its job so much. (The robot contacted me and denied it.)

Roose's supermarket isn't the only being subjected to these things.

Writer and producer Jon Comulada shot video that showed the robot was just a nuisance.

I asked my personal private detectives to identify this robot.

It bears a considerable resemblance to Marty, a robot seconded to Giant Food Stores.

Worryingly, Adweek reported that there are likely to be 172 Marty's being deployed across Giant supermarkets.

It seems its primary responsibility currently involves identifying "in-store hazards like spills, so employees can take action faster."

In the future, if you can bear to imagine this, its creators at Badger Technologies insist it could be commited to "address out-of-stock, planogram compliance, price integrity, and audit and compliance issues."

I wonder how the accountants at, say, PwC would feel if they had to discuss audit issues with this robot being. Right at home, I imagine.

Now, about those eyes. Oh, please let me quote Adweek: "Nick Bertram, president of Giant, said they wanted to personify the machine to '[make] it a bit more fun' for customers and 'not hide it, but celebrate the fact that there's a robot.'"

Fun. Celebrate. But of course.

I fear there will come a time, when a harassed customer rushing down the aisle barrels over a Marty and separates it from its useful life.

I feel sure its creators will announce that it was a Marty to the cause.

Humans vs. Robots, which species is winning?

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