Some customers at the Giant Food Store on South Spring Garden Street in Carlisle scoot past the tall, gray robot on wheels, avoiding contact with its googly eyes. Others look at it with a smile, and a few offer a cheery, “Hey, Marty!” as it rolls past.
Marty is a robot deployed in four area Giant stores to improve the shopping experience, said Christopher Brand, director of external communications and community relations at Giant.
“We are, of course, thrilled by the recognition of Marty by our customers. I think they are having some good fun with it,” he said.
Marty was initially piloted at the Giant store at Union Deposit Road in Harrisburg in early October 2017, and has since made an appearance at stores in Silver Spring Township and Mechanicsburg in addition to the Carlisle store.
Marty is equipped with multiple cameras and technology similar to that of newer cars that not only allow for hazards to be detected, but also to stop the car before it hits an object. Using the cameras, Marty looks for spills and hazards and reports them to the team of associates electronically so they can send someone to take care of it.
Powered by a rechargeable lithium battery, Marty also has the capacity to scan shelves to identify items that are out of stock and send a message so the area can be quickly resupplied.
“We don’t want holes on the shelves because then we know we aren’t satisfying our customers,” Brand said.
Brand said Marty does not replace associates. Rather, it gives the store’s employees more time to engage with customers. In one of the chain’s larger stores, for example, an associate patrolling for spills or out-of-stock merchandise might find something after a 10-minute walk. Marty allows for a more targeted approach by sending information on those concerns directly to the store’s team.
Cameras and sensors allow Marty to stop if something as small as a loaf of bread is on the floor in front of it. That opens the possibility for the robot to be boxed in by obstacles. If that happens, an alert is sent to the store associate so that Marty can be rescued.
As a forward-looking company, Giant adds cutting-edge technology and new offerings to the stores to help the store experience become “exciting and new,” Brand said. The company is also grateful that the customers have been great sports about the new robot and their interaction with Marty.
“I do think we’re all fascinated with the devices we have in our homes now,” Brand said. “It makes sense that these types of advancements are becoming more and more common.”