Walmart is building grocery-shopping robots and it offers a glimpse into the company’s automated future

Walmart will soon start using robots to pick and pack shoppers’ online grocery orders.

The company is building a 20,000-square-foot extension to one of its stores in Salem, New Hampshire, that will house robotic grocery carts and hundreds of products.

The automated carts will rapidly pick and pack products according to customers’ orders, then deliver the goods to one of four stations where Walmart employees will finish assembling the orders.

“The vast majority of grocery products we offer in-store will be fulfilled through this system, though our personal shoppers will still handpick produce and other fresh items,” Mark Ibbotson, Walmart US executive vice president of central operations, wrote in a blog post .

Walmart developed the system, which it’s calling Alphabot, in partnership with Massachusetts-based Alert Innovation.

Ibbotson said the new system is designed to give Walmart employees more time to focus on service and selling while shifting the more “mundane, repeatable tasks” onto the robots.

“Although this is a small pilot, we expect big things from it,” he wrote. “We have a lot to learn about this new technology, and we’re excited about the possibilities of how we can use it to make the future of shopping — and working — even better.”

Walmart’s new program follows Kroger’s announcement in May that it is partnering with Ocado , a UK-based online supermarket, that has robots with the ability to pack a 50-item grocery order in a matter of minutes.

As part of the agreement, Ocado will help Kroger build at least 20 of its futuristic, robot-powered warehouses in the US.


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