Looking for a Hammer? Ask the Talking Robot!

If you’re like me, you can never find what you’re looking for in a Lowe’s Home Improvement store. Not only that, but to locate an available clerk who can point you in the right direction is nearly impossible–especially when you’re in a hurry.

Technology has come to the rescue! Lowe’s Innovation Labs and Silicon Valley technology company Fellow Robots have teamed up to build an innovative retail service robot. According to a recent Gizmag article, the robot is called OSHbot and was made for Orchard Supply Hardware (hence the name).

OSHBotOSHbot looks similar to a slim kiosk on wheels. It’s equipped with speech recognition and natural language processing technology and is marginally conversational. In the demonstration video, OSHbot proactively approaches customers as they enter the store and asks them how it can help. Customers can tell the robot what item they’re looking for. Alternatively, they can hold up an item to the robot’s 3D camera and it can use the image to locate the object in its database.

OSHbot is even integrated with the store’s realtime inventory system. It knows where everything is and whether it’s in stock or not. The robot can connect with a live clerk if someone asks it a question it can’t answer. OSHbot uses scanning technology to build a map of the store so that it can navigate the aisles autonomously. All you need to do is follow the bot and presto! You’re standing right in front of the very item you need.

Is OSHbot the first of many speech-enabled service robots? It certainly combines a toolbox of technologies to dramatically improve the customer’s experience in a brick and motor store–especially a place as challenging to navigate as a hardware store. The fun of interacting with a talking robot might even provide an incentive to buy your hammer at a local shop, rather than just ordering it online. Of all the conversational robots I’ve seen, OSHbot is undoubtedly the most practical.

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