MIT Technology Review has an interview with an exec from a company making robots for Walmart: “Walmart’s new robots are loved by staff—and ignored by customers”.
Erin: How have employees responded to the robots? Have you received any pushback because of the “robots are taking my job” idea?
Martin: When we first deployed a robot in a store, the associates were the people that understood it first. This boring, repetitive task of scanning the shelves—we have yet to meet someone who has liked to do that. Employees instantly become the advocates for the robot.
One way they do that is by giving it a name—the robots all have Walmart name badges on. The employees have competitions to see what the right name is for each robot. They also advocate for the robot to the general public. It’s the store staff saying, “It’s helping me.” We see them now defending the robot.
My department used to have a course on the books called “Robotics: Human Dimensions”, which was had been 1970s-era course that looked at the social changes from robotics in manufacturing. For some time, I thought it would be fun to revive the class to make it actually about robotics and the integration of robots into human societies.
Now I see that the two are blending together.