TechSpotlight: LoweBots get green light to roll


There will soon be robots roaming the aisles of select Lowe's stores, an expansion of an earlier test. The intention is to free up associates to work with shoppers while LoweBots scan for inventory and locate products.

Lowe's had tested the LoweBot in a single Orchard Supply Hardware store that the company owns and will now expand to 11 locations in the San Francisco Bay area. LoweBots will roll out in phases beginning in September throughout San Jose, California over a seven-month period.

"For nearly two years, we've studied how robots in our San Jose Orchard Supply Hardware store can help customers more effectively navigate the store to find products and assist employees with inventory scanning," said Kyle Nel, executive director of Lowe's Innovation Labs, the company's disruptive innovation hub. "Now, we are taking those learnings and applying them to a focused group of Lowe's stores to see how the technology supports a broader customer and employee base."

The LoweBot is a product of the Lowe's Innovation Labs, which launched in 2014 and was developed through a partnership with Fellow Robots, a Silicon Valley technology company. It was initiated through SU Labs, a Singularity University program "that connects corporate innovation teams with startups and other organizations to explore exponentially accelerating technologies and create new sustainable business solutions."  

Intelligent help is just one area that the Labs is pursuing to see how emerging technology can improve the customer experience and complement employee project expertise, according to the company.

"We designed the NAVii robot to make the shopping experience easier for consumers – simplifying the process of finding the product you're looking for – while also managing the back-end and keeping shelf inventory up-to-date for the retailer," said Marco Mascorro, CEO of Fellow Robots. "Leaving the data and simple recommendations to NAVii allows Lowe's employees to devote their attention to the Lowe's customer, to provide them with thoughtful advice and personalized service."