Robots, more specifically distribution center robotics and automation have become the major competitive weapon in the escalating battle for retail customers.
It's stacking up to be a fight to the death with traditional brick and mortar chains struggling to catch up with online giants like Amazon. The big challenge may turn out to be that they are playing a catch-up game, one where Amazon has already paid it's dues and accumulated years, if not decades of know-how and experience.
"Walgreen Co. and Toys “R” Us Inc. are among the chains rushing to open distribution centers, revamp websites and integrate their stores more seamlessly into their online operations. Amazon, meanwhile, plans to open 15 distribution centers this year. “Many brick-and-mortar retailers have had their ‘a-ha' moment as Amazon continues to grow and the Internet is getting more viable,” said Mick Mountz, chief executive officer of Kiva Systems Inc., which has seen orders surge this year for the warehouse robots it sells to retailers. Last month Toys ‘R' Us opened a warehouse near Reno, Nevada, equipped with the Roomba- like critters, which shorten order turn-around time."
Toys ‘R' Us Deploys Robots as Retailers Seek to Catch Amazon - BusinessWeek
I'm not connected with Woot, and I can't even order any of their daily special offers because I live outside the country and the shipping costs would be more than the cost of the time. Still, it's fun to watch what they put on offer, especially since the prices are always rock bottom.
For some strange, unknown reason, several of their recent one day sales special offers have been robots. Today their offer is a "Robokid Programmable Disk Shooting RC Robot". Looks pretty cool, at least from the small photo on the kids.woot website.
If you do happen to pick one up within the 24 hour sale period, please let me know what you think and how it performs.
I can't order one from over here, but if you're looking for a real sweetheart deal on the Roomba 440 robot vacuum, then checkout the woot! Website offer of the day. They're offering the robot for just $119.99.
A recent Muchoviaje Spanish language travel magazine article entitled "10 Tiendas de techno-shopping" featured the top ten must-visit technical goods stores around the globe. Here's their selection:
- Yodobashi Akiba - Tokyo, Japan
- Apple Store - New York City, USA
- RT Corp - Tokyo, Japan
- Fortress World Flagship - Hong Kong
- Tsann Kuen 3C Nova - Taipei, Taiwan
- Electronic Land - Seoul, Korea
- Fry's Electronics - Sunnyvale, California, USA
- Nokia Flagship Store - Helsinki, Finland
- Meister Camera - Berlin, Germany
- Apple Store - Regent Street, London, England
Congratulations to RT for making this distinguished list. In addition to the wide selection of humanoid and other robots, and English capable staff, the article mentioned that RT is the home of the "famous RIC Android robot". Quite a feather in their cap.
Drawing inspiration from Japanese capsule hotels, while incorporating a lot more style, comfort, and size, the Yotel hotel even features a robot bellboy to take care of your checked luggage while you explore the Big Apple. The decor, as you can see from the video below, seems straight out of a futuristic SF movie and could be a bit stark for some tastes. Nevertheless, the room rates would be hard to beat in what has to be one of the most expensive cities in the world.
The robot loving guru's over at iheartrobotics.com have been pumping out interesting new accessories for the TurtleBot robot platform at a dizzying pace. Their latest creation, available via the iheartrobotics webstore, adds speakers that could provide music as the robot attempts a Michael Jackson, or Lady Gaga, imitation. There's also a link in their blog post that shares all the build details in case you want to hack one together yourself.
Be sure to check out the rest of the TurtleBot goodies they have created. It looks like the robot may be going for a new Guinness World Record for the most accessorized robot ever.