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Have you visited any grocery stores in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, or New Jersey lately and noticed a tall, cartoon-eyed robot slowly following you up and down the aisles?
Marty the Robot is Stop & Shop’s newest employee and is causing quite a stir. Since January, about 300 Martys have been introduced to New England stores, each with their own snail pace and pair of giant googly eyes, reports The New Food Economy. If you think these robots are there to catch shoplifters, that might be exactly what Stop & Shop wants you to think. The robot’s only job is to detect spills or messes and alert human employees to come clean it up, but people are speculating that its height and giant googly eyes are there to intimidate potential shoplifters. Even the written explanation on the robot isn’t exactly clear about its role:
“This store is monitored by Marty for your safety,” the message says, implying an association with danger or theft. “Marty is an autonomous robot that uses image capturing technology to report spills, debris and other potential hazards to store employees to improve your shopping experience.”
In reality, all the robot is is a glorified Roomba, according to Stop & Shop employee Kristen, who told The New Food Economy about Marty’s shortcomings. Marty announces every “mess”, right down to a rogue twist tie or grape stem, over the PA repeatedly until the issue is resolved. Needless to say, it doesn’t have the system of judgment that the humans it replaced had.
“It’s really not doing much of anything besides getting in the way,” said Kristen.
If this is indeed the first step of the robot takeover, it doesn’t seem to be all that threatening just yet.