Automation Nation: America's Largest Employer 'Secretly' Tests Self-Driving Floor-Scrubbers

Dark and difficult times lie ahead. Soon, America’s middle class must come to the realization that the country’s largest employer–Walmart is quietly testing an army of robots that soon will replace their jobs. The latest installment is an autonomous floor scrubber being tested at five store locations near the company’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas.

The autonomous cleaning robot dubbed Emma, an A.I. navigated system capable of operating floor care equipment on nightshifts, is able to clean the entire store front without human interaction. San Diego-based startup Brain Corp., works with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop novel machine learning algorithms that focus on taking jobs from middle class Americans. BrainOS is the company’s flagship product that enables robots to “perceive their environments, control motion, and navigate using visual cues and landmarks, while seeing and avoiding people and obstacles”.

A Walmart spokesperson, Kory Lundberg, confirmed to Chip Cutter, Managing editor at LinkedIn, that Walmart was indeed testing the robotic scrubbers, but said it is still in a “proof of concept” phase.

“We’re always testing new ideas and new technology,” Lundberg said. “We still have a lot more to learn about how this technology will work best for our different retail locations.”

According to LinkedIn, here are more details documenting the ‘secret tests’ of robotic scrubbers at various Supercenters..

Multiple employees who work at the retailer’s 24-hour Supercenter in Pineville, Mo., about 20 minutes north of Walmart’s home office, confirmed the use of the device to me this week, saying it had been tested in their store for about a month this fall.

 

In a private Facebook group earlier this month, someone who claims to be a worker at the Pineville store shared a photo of the greyish vehicle making a turn near a display for $78 deer feeders. No one is seated in the driver’s seat, and two “caution, cleaning in progress” banners are shown on both sides of the device. An ICE logo is also affixed; Holland, Mich.-based International Cleaning Equipment, a Brain Corp. partner, manufactures the scrubbing equipment itself.  

In October, Walmart said it’s rolling out self-scanning robots in more than 50 U.S. stores to replenish inventory on shelves. The company is determined to automate the daily tasks of its workers, but said the bots would not lead to a drop in headcount.

With the retail apocalypse in full-swing, “retailers are looking for opportunities to automate processes and stop paying people,” said Richard A. Feinberg, a professor of consumer sciences and retailing at Purdue University, who forecasts automation could save retailers such as Walmart.

He also noted, “it changes the nature of the jobs; it may not mean fewer jobs, it may mean they can retrain the people to do things that are more useful for them, business wise,” he said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if it reduces headcount, but I don’t know.”

More importantly, a Walmart spokesperson said “the maintenance team is actually quite ‘excited’ to work with new technology.” What they don’t know is that their jobs will be obsolete in a few years after the 50 state rollout commences. All fun in games today until someone gets a pink slip.

As Fox News reports, Walmart is not the only company testing this technology..

According to Phil Duffy, VP of Innovation & Marketing for Brain Corporation, the company is currently working with approximately 50 malls and big box retailers across the U.S.

 

“We are also in airports, educational campuses, corporate campuses and industrial sites. In addition, we will be launching in Japan, through our partner, SoftBank Robotics, by summer 2018,” Duffy said.  

In a preview of what’s to come, Brain Corp., funded by DARPA is leading the charge through Walmart, America’s largest employer to automate low skill jobs. The middle class or what is left of them have many dark and difficult days ahead, as we expect this trend to gain momentum in the coming years.

Comments

AGuy True Blue Sat, 11/25/2017 - 01:24 Permalink

"Will Wally-world still be the 'lergest employer' once it automates 75% of the jobs?"

I doubt Walmart will be able to automate 75% of its jobs, but at least 25% to 40%. Same with many other retail/food jobs. But it will cause a major employment problem for the no skill/low skill or obsolete skill workers.

In reply to by True Blue

Endgame Napoleon Pure Evil Fri, 11/24/2017 - 20:11 Permalink

“Automation Nation”: That should be a book title.

However, those Wal*Mart jobs do not pay middle-class wages.

Next bot replacement: MSM anchors.

The programming should be easy. Obamacare site programmers will do.

1) Program the bot to gossip about sex, saying the same thing over and over;

2) Program the bot to say Russia, Russia, Russia;

3) Program the bot to praise Obama and Hillary;

4) Program the bot to pepper his/her/its phrases with the words racism, sexism and xenophobia.

In reply to by Pure Evil

AGuy Citxmech Sat, 11/25/2017 - 01:29 Permalink

"Why hire Max Headroom when you've already got Lester Holt, Andrea Mitchell, et al.?"

Because they robots don't get paid multi-million dollar salaries.

Interesting thought about replacing actors with robots. Stuff like news which is more or less reading off a teleprompter could easily be automated with virtual people.

In reply to by Citxmech

ejmoosa Pure Evil Sat, 11/25/2017 - 08:49 Permalink

If we had a real, growing economic oie, the scrubbers would be welcomed by everyone.  Those that had operated them would be moving to better jobs whree they could be more productive. But our economic pie is shrinking.  And everyone will be fighting over their piece as we move forward.

In reply to by Pure Evil

Pure Evil algol_dog Fri, 11/24/2017 - 20:13 Permalink

Being that I'm only a few years away from collecting SS I was impressed that when I received my annual SS notice indicating how much I would be pulling in each month that I could collect more per month on SSI disability than if I wait to start collecting at 67 years of age. (Yes, that is one long ass run on sentence)

In reply to by algol_dog

NoDebt Fri, 11/24/2017 - 19:38 Permalink

"it changes the nature of the jobs; it may not mean fewer jobs, it may mean they can retrain the people to do things that are more useful for them, business wise"Hysterical.  It WILL mean fewer jobs and they damned well know it.  Why would they do it if it DIDN'T mean fewer jobs?"Retrain" them?  Like how we "retrain" out of work coal miners to become programmers and engineers?  Nigga, please. 

sushi NoDebt Fri, 11/24/2017 - 20:09 Permalink

Like how we "retrain" out of work coal miners to become programmers and engineers? No, no no.Not programmers and engineers.Academics. Liberal academics. Teaching a variety of useful topics that are more useful business wise, economy wise and socially wise. You know. Stuff like The Infinite Range of Human Genders, How to Maximize Your Government Program Income, The History of Trannies in the USMC, How Russia Controls The US Electorate With $4,700 in Targeted Facebook Ads . .. and other topics of relevance in today's complex world.  

In reply to by NoDebt

Endgame Napoleon NoDebt Fri, 11/24/2017 - 20:16 Permalink

Even if it were possible to train all of the out-of-work people to do highly paid jobs in engineering, programming and medicine — and it’s not — the job market in those few decent-paying fields would then flood over with applicants, driving wages down, just like it does when too many people compete for lower level jobs.

In reply to by NoDebt

NoDebt Endgame Napoleon Fri, 11/24/2017 - 21:28 Permalink

Exactly right.  Back when I was a mere pup learing Economics the theory was posited that technological advance would merely free people up to do more "productive" things as it eliminated their less productive work (like making buggy whips).  I voluntarily withdrew from that class where I.... well, basically, I argued against the professor too much on this subject.  This was the same professor who said we would soon be working 3 day weeks because massive productivity increases would allow us to.If you average in all the non-employable people now (you can't get out of them more than you have to pay to employ them) and assume that sitting on your ass, doing drugs, playing XBox and "protesting" is a more "productive" activity than what they used to do while employed then, on average, he was probably right.  But I think, all things considered, I was probably closer to reality than he was. 

In reply to by Endgame Napoleon

3-fingered_chemist Endgame Napoleon Sat, 11/25/2017 - 00:06 Permalink

It's already past the point of no return there. For example, in chemistry, US graduates about 2500 PhDs a year. Want to guess how many tenure track professor jobs open up each year? Maybe 300. There is no industry willing to hire PhDs in chemistry in the US anymore either unless you come from a handful of selected universities, so that eliminates about 95 % of people. There are endless opportunities for PhDs to teach 16 week classes for 3500 dollars without benefits though.   

In reply to by Endgame Napoleon

AGuy NoDebt Sat, 11/25/2017 - 01:34 Permalink

""Retrain" them? Like how we "retrain" out of work coal miners to become programmers and engineers?"

You can't. They will simply become welfare recipients, but vote DNC since they will support more Welfare.

That said there will be a need for people to service these machines. Question is: will they find mechanics & Technicians to fix and maintain Robots? Or can they make the robots cheap enough so they just get replaced?

In reply to by NoDebt

Solosides Fri, 11/24/2017 - 19:40 Permalink

Dont fret goy. Soon you will have a $750/month basic income check, a shipping container apartment, and all the free xbox, pornhub, and fake beer your heart desires.

MuffDiver69 Fri, 11/24/2017 - 19:45 Permalink

Some how this doesn’t concern me....The company with the crews who service this type of equipment will pay one skilled technician the equivalent of many manual floor cleaners who aren’t making a living wage to begin with..I can only imagine the writers deep concern back when dishwashing machines hit the scene..

2Blondboys MuffDiver69 Fri, 11/24/2017 - 19:58 Permalink

I run a restaurant. The first year or so of operation, we hand washed dishes. Eventually we had to get an automated dish washer system. We had 1 dishwasher person. Now we have two on a shift. Our head count as we get busier keeps growing even as we have significantly upgraded our equipment to be much more efficient. Cleaning is a big expense. It takes many. Nobody likes it. Wish we could have robots to do that work.

In reply to by MuffDiver69

2Blondboys MuffDiver69 Fri, 11/24/2017 - 19:58 Permalink

I run a restaurant. The first year or so of operation, we hand washed dishes. Eventually we had to get an automated dish washer system. We had 1 dishwasher person. Now we have two on a shift. Our head count as we get busier keeps growing even as we have significantly upgraded our equipment to be much more efficient. Cleaning is a big expense. It takes many. Nobody likes it. Wish we could have robots to do that work.

In reply to by MuffDiver69