Technological unemployment is about to get a lot worse. Walmart (NYSE: WMT) is planning a store with no cashiers.
The world’s largest retailer has plans for a store where customers would simply take merchandise and walk out the door without stopping at a register, Recode revealed. Instead, cameras, sensors, and employees on the floor would keep track of purchases.
The concept is similar to the Amazon Go store concept that Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) has been testing in Seattle. No date for unveiling or location for the next-generation Walmart has been announced, because the retailer has been having problems with the technology, Recode reported.
The cashier-less store is labeled Project Kepler and is being funded by a Walmart incubator called Store No. 8, Recode claimed. Project Kepler might be located in Hoboken, New Jersey and associated with Jet.com; the unicorn, Marc Lore, the CEO of Walmart eCommerce, sold to Walmart last year. Jet cofounder Mike Hanrahan might be running Project Kepler.
The Project Kepler store might charge a membership fee, so it might be associated with Walmart’s membership warehouse, Sam’s Club. Many details including the operating name of Project Kepler are not available.
Note: any information about Project Kepler is highly-suspect because the Recode article relies on “sources.” That is journalist-speak for “this information cannot be confirmed.”
Retail Jobs Apocalypse Coming to Walmart
Project Kepler may feature a next-generation cashier register run by artificial intelligence (AI). Store No. 8 is experimenting with the use of machine-learning and natural language processing (NLP) in a retail setting, Recode claimed. The hope is to build a cash register that interacts with customers in the way a human being does.
This will make the retail jobs apocalypse worse by eliminating one of the few jobs left for lower-middle class people especially women. That will lead to political and social unrest because former clerical workers replaced by computers are now competing for cashier’s jobs.
Earlier this week I was in a grocery store in Denver, and talking to a cashier. I complemented her on the good job she was doing, and mused that she had retail experience. The woman told me she used to work in a law office, what happens to her when the AI cash register goes online?
Expect to see some ugly incidents; including mobs smashing up Amazon Go or Project Kepler stores, if this keeps up. Also expect demagogues like Donald J. Trump, Michael Moore, and Steve Bannon to go after technology next.
Walmart Planning AI Shopping Service for Rich Moms
Project Kepler is not the only way Walmart is planning to kill retail jobs. Another AI-initiative called Code Eight will target “high net worth urban consumers” or rich city dwellers, Recode speculated.
Code Eight is described as a “personal shopping assistant” that will serve busy New York City moms. The assistant will do the shopping for mom online and dispatch a delivery person to take the times to her home or office.
Household items are supposed to be delivered within 24 hours, everything else within two business days. Returns will be picked up directly from the customer. Orders can be made online or through text messages.
There is no word on when or where Code Eight will be tested, or if it is being tested. Recode did not say if Code Eight will use Walmart employees or contract delivery services. Like Project Kepler, Code is reportedly part of Store No. 8.
It looks as if the technological jobs apocalypse is occurring at America’s largest employer Walmart. Popular reaction to that development is not going to be pretty.