Remember growing up watching science fiction TV shows and movies that depicted a future where robots were an everyday part of our lives? Some were housekeepers or butlers who catered to every whim of their owners. Others were companions who would simply play with the children of the family and listen to their problems although human emotion "did not compute" with them. Of course, there were also those that enslaved humanity and sent Arnold Schwarzenegger back in time to prevent the birth of the one human who could beat them. I don't think the one I saw at Schnucks in Newburgh is the overtake humanity type, but you never know.

During my weekly grocery run on Saturday, I took a trip down the cookie aisle to see if there were any that sounded good. As I walked down the aisle, I had my head turned so I could scan the shelves. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something coming toward me. Something that wasn't human.

It was this:

inventory robot
Ryan O'Bryan
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As the person in the house who handles making the weekly grocery run, I usually have to pop into Schnucks to get something off the list I can't find somewhere else. I'd say since we moved to Newburgh back in the summer of 2018, I've been to Schnucks a couple of hundred times. In all those trips, I had never seen this thing until this past Saturday.

Meet Tally

I stood there for a few seconds and watched as this robot zig-zagged its way back and forth down the aisle. I wasn't sure what it was doing exactly. I had read some stores have robots that clean the floors, but the base of this one was too small for that, and it was missing a majority of the aisle with the way it was moving. As it got closer, I noticed it had a name tag like any other store employee.

inventory robot
Ryan O'Bryan
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When I first read its name, I thought it was pronounced, "Tall-ee," because it was about my height (6' 3"). I also thought that was a dumb and lazy name. Then I realized I was the dumb one. It's not pronounced "Tall-ee," it's pronounced, "Tallee," because its job is to count things and keep a running tally ‍♂️.

Apparently, Schnucks has been using Tally to help keep track of their products for some time. I found an old press release from their corporate office online from September of 2020 announcing they were expanding the use of Tally to more of their locations around the midwest after successful test runs at a few locations beginning in 2017.

How Tally Works

According to the press release, Tally works like this:

Using a suite of sensors, the robot operates safely during normal store hours alongside shoppers and employees and doesn’t require any infrastructure changes to the store. Tally’s design is intuitive, friendly, and fits naturally into the retail environment. The robot scans entire stores up to three times per day and autonomously returns to its dock allowing for continuous operation. Combined with Simbe’s (the company that created the system) cloud-powered software platform, powered by computer vision and machine learning, retailers have unprecedented information and insight into the state of their stores. This information can be used to streamline store performance, maximize customer satisfaction, increase sales, and optimize operational expenditures.

Here's a look at Tally in action along with a little more info from Schnucks CIO, Bob Hardester on why the company feels it will enhance the customer experience:

Technology, isn't it something?

[Source: Schnucks Press Release / Fox 2 St. Louis on YouTube]

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