LG Electronics Inc. has now finalized a deal with Korean retail outlet E-mart Inc. that will result in the development of automated AI-driven shopping cart-like robots, according to a recent announcement from the company. The partnership encompasses nearly every aspect of development on the "retail service robots," with the goal of eliminating the need for any given shopper needs to push around a shopping cart. That will involve the creation of new algorithms designed explicitly to help the robots avoid obstacles, such as other shoppers or display stands, in addition to tools related to tracking and following a single specific customer. No timeframe or financial details associated with the deal were provided but the company says that it plans to showcase the robots at various locations throughout development in order to build consumer awareness and to highlight how useful the bots can be.
Background: Underlying the new robotic carts will be LG's CLOi AI platform for the category, also found in its smart home hub-like version of the bot that was put on display at this year's CES 2018 in Las Vegas. At the time, the company was already considering the use of its robotics in a huge variety of roles including using it as the basis for an automated shopping cart. When it tried to show off the progress of its development at that event the robot appeared to suffer quite a few technical difficulties, failing to respond and freezing up several times. Following that comparatively lackluster on-stage performance and, perhaps more importantly, a below-expectations performance in the mobile industry, LG has renewed its focus on and ramped up its commitment to robotics development as a whole.
Those renewed efforts have ranged from investments made throughout the industry to developing new technologies of its own in the category. Among the more exciting of those projects is a new exoskeleton that was introduced back at IFA 2018. Referred to by the company as the CLOi SuitBot, the robotic invention takes a completely different approach to the service robotics market than competitors in that it is a part of an AI-dominated "smart working network" the company is trying to create. That will encompass an array of mechanically-enhanced AI inventions that essentially replace humans for accomplishing menial tasks while featuring interconnectivity in order to improve efficiency and optimize other aspects of a job. As its name implies, the CLOi SuitBot is an exoskeletal robotic garment meant to be worn by a human worker rather than replacing one. Put simply, the robot suit provides assistance to human workers, in terms of supporting their lower body and limbs during manual labor or factory-related tasks.
Impact: Above everything else, the announcement of LG's partnership with E-Mart really serves to provide a clearer indication of the range of solutions the company is looking to offer through its aggressive approach to robotics. While inventions such as the SuitBot and its related technologies are aimed more toward the working and enterprise sectors of the market, the newly announced cart bot appears much more focused on the average consumer. Conversely, it also has possible added advantages for retailers since it won't require workers to retrieve and organize the carts – as has traditionally been the case. What's more, particularly if the technology becomes widespread, the carts will feasibly reduce at least some of the liabilities and risks associated with wayward carts running into cars or causing other damages.