Newest Thing At The Corner Store: A Robot That Stocks Drinks

TOKYO (AP) — A small robot with a clip-like hand and enough smarts to know which drinks are popular is part of an effort to make convenience stores even more convenient.

On a recent day in Tokyo, the robot named TX SCARA slid back and forth behind the refrigerated shelves in the back of a FamilyMart store.

The hand on the end of its mechanical arm grasped a bottle or can from the stacks to the side, then the robot slithered to the right spot and placed the drink on the shelf — in a place chosen after its artificial intelligence and tiny cameras matched the kind of beverage to what’s running short.

TX SCARA is filling a needed role in Japan’s “conbini,” as the ubiquitous tiny stores selling snacks, drinks and knick-knacks are called.

Most such stores are open 24-seven, filled with 3,000 kinds of products, but have relatively few workers. The beverage shelves in the back are farthest from the cash register, keeping workers running back and forth. And the beverage space is refrigerated, uncomfortably cold for people to stay there too many hours.

TX SCARA, which goes at an undisclosed price, can restock up to 1,000 bottles and cans a day. Its artificial intelligence, called “GORDON,” knows when and where products need to be placed on shelves, according to Tokyo-based Telexistence, which created TX SCARA.

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