Telexistence robots to restock shelves at convenience stores in Japan

Telexistence plans to deploy AI-powered robots to restock shelves at 300 FamilyMart stores in Japan, according to a blog posted Wednesday by Nvidia.

The robots run on Nvidia’s Jetson edge AI and robotics platform.

Telexistence is a startup founded in 2017 and based in Tokyo. After it tackles the Japanese market, Telexistence plans to take on convenience stores in the U.S.

“We want to deploy robots to industry that support humans’ everyday life,” CEO Jin Tomioka told Nvidia. “The first space we’re tackling this is through convenience stores—a huge network that supports daily life, especially in Japan, but is facing a labor shortage.”

Labor shortages are everywhere in retail globally, apparently. In the U.S. there are 150,000 convenience stores while Japan has 56,000 such stores.  About 16,000 there are run by FamilyMart. Telexistence is also developing AI for warehouse logistics with robots sorting and picking packages.

In the Japanese convenience store example, Telexistence said it will install the TX SCARA robot in 300 FamilyMart stores in late August. A video from Telexistence compares how a human stocking clerk repeatedly loads shelves with drink bottles one by one.  The video says the TX SCARA robot scans to see where bottles need to be replenished based on demand and past sales. A single store can replenish 1,000 bottles in a day.

The robot moves in a narrow aisle with its robotic arm moving up and down and then in and out of each shelf. It grabs bottles and cans one by one with a simple robotic pincer.

If the robot encounters miscalculations or other problems, it connects to a remote operator via the internet to take control. The video depicts a remote operator using a VR system with a headset and hand-operated controller to take control of the robot’s maneuver as needed.

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