Artificial Intelligence: Marty the Robot Hunts for Spills in Supermarket Aisles

Marty is the first robot to be “live” alongside shoppers.

Marty the supermarket robot is rather smart. Armed with three high-resolution cameras, computer vision, navigation systems, numerous sensors, and smart AI software, Marty is able to sidestep shoppers and pinpoint spills. Marty is a social robot and the first of its kind to be deployed in a live customer environment in supermarkets. (AI

The 6’4” Marty, made by Badger Technologies, weighs 140 pounds and costs $35,000. Inconspicuously colored in a muted grey, Marty sports traveling lights and sounds an audible beep to warn shoppers in the vicinity.

Robotic spill-spotting skills

On its first time out in a store Marty spends about an hour scoping out the geography. It creates a 3D map in its memory using its three cameras.

On its duty roster, the robot travels up and down the store aisles looking for spills. When it spots one, it notifies store associates of the location on the public address system. An associate cleans up the spill and presses a button on Marty in confirmation. For good measure, the robot also photographs the cleaned up area.

At all costs, Marty must not collide with shoppers. Artificial intelligence in the robot combined with machine vision and collision-avoidance navigation features ensure this does not happen. To make doubly sure, Badger Technologies put the robots through a year of trials and only then deployed them at Stop & Shop and Giant/Martin’s grocery stores last December.

A social and friendly robot

“We were one of the first to introduce a robot into such a public setting,” said Richard Rowland, CEO of Badger Technologies. “We would rather be working in a warehouse than out in the middle of many shoppers. So the primary goal was to operate safely with a lot of foot traffic around and not bump into anything.”

Marty also uses AI to scan the floor for spills that need to be cleaned up.

In a chance occurrence, one of the Stop & Shop associates put some “eyes” on Marty to make it appear friendlier. That worked, according to Rowland. It helped an otherwise high-tech piece of equipment to be accepted amongst the shoppers.

Badger is now testing the robot to scan the higher shelves of the stores to identify out of stock or wrongly priced products.

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