Walmart has filed a patent to get drones to fly in stores. The American retail giant wants drones to help customers in its stores: shoppers can ask them for directions or to get something checked in the shelves.
Send a flying store employee
Is a discounted product still in stock? How much did that whine cost and was it more expensive than the other one? Instead of finding out for yourself in the department store’s long aisles, Walmart may employ drones in its stores to help you.
Similar to what robots have been doing in several stores, Walmart is considering the use of drones as a customer service feature. A newly-filed patent shows that customers can use their smartphone to call for a drone, which will then guide them to a product or that can (re)search something, just as actual store employees do now.
Drones with screen or projector
“If, for example, the user has requested navigation assistance to an item selected from a virtual shopping list on the mobile electronic device, the computing device can control the aerial drone to provide navigation assistance to guide the user to the location of the selected item,” states the patent application according to MediaPost.
It will also have sounds and audio output to guide Walmart shoppers. The drone itself should even be able to project an image or movie to show the way. Customers should also be able to send the drones to a particular item to check the most up-to-date pricing.
Walmart is thinking about different types of drones for the different tasks: drones with screens, but also drones with speakers and projectors.
Robots are already scanning stock
To put things into perspective: these are mere patent requests, which means that it is by no means certain that Walmart will actually develop – or use - these applications. There is a technological arms race going on between major companies and they are all trying to claim as many innovations as possible, before the competition does so.
The American retailer already uses robots in fifty stores and their job is to scan the shelves. They quickly move between the shelves and check every product’s stock levels as they pass.