FamilyMart restocks shelves with help from NVIDIA AI-powered robots

Restocking products on the shelves is one of the most time-consuming tasks for convenience stores. Japan’s FamilyMart is getting help from NVIDIA AI-powered robots.

The convenience chain will deploy these TX SCARA robots to restock shelves at 300 outlets from this month. Doing so would free staff to focus on more complex tasks such as customer interaction.

Telexistence, which developed the robots running on the NVIDIA Jetson edge AI and robotics platform, estimates that a busy convenience store needs to restock more than 1,000 beverages a day.

TX SCARA’s cloud system maintains a database of product sales based on the name, date, time and number of items stocked by the robots during operation. This allows the AI to prioritise which items to restock first based on past sales data.

“Staff members spend a lot of time in the back room of the store, restocking shelves, instead of out with customers. Robotics-as-a-service can allow staff to spend more time with customers,” said Jin Tomioka, CEO of Telexistence.

Founded in 2017, the company plans to expand to convenience stores in the US, which also faces a labour shortage in the retail industry.

TX SCARA runs on a track and includes multiple cameras to scan each shelf, using AI to identify drinks that are running low and plan a path to restock them. The AI system can successfully restock beverages automatically more than 98 percent of the time.

In the rare instance when the robot misjudges the placement of the beverage or a drink topples over, Telexistence has remote operators on standby who can quickly address the situation by taking manual control through a VR system that uses NVIDIA GPUs for video streaming.

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