Recent years have seen robots wandering the aisles in Walmart stores around the United States, scanning items and keeping track of inventory. This futuristic experiment is coming to an end, based on a new report that Walmart has cut ties with the robotics company providing the scanning robots.
On Nov. 2, the Wall Street Journal reported that Walmart had ended its contract with Bossa Nova Robotics Inc. The robotics company had partnered with Walmart, providing it with robots that could move down its isles, scanning products as it went. A clear answer was not provided for the partnership’s end.
Starting in 2017, Bossa Nova Robotics partnered with Walmart on a 50-robot evaluation initiative. Walmart expanded its robot fleet by 300 in 2019, bringing its total number to 350.
In January 2020, Bossa Nova Robotics had announced that Walmart would be deploying 650 additional robots to its stores nationwide.
Bossa Nova Robotics is a robotics company headquartered in San Francisco that is a spin-off of Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute. According to PitchBook, the company had approximately 200 employees as of 2018.
The news of the Walmart contract ending has reportedly resulted in substantial lay-offs at Bossa Nova Robotics. The Wall Street Journal reported that the news has resulted in layoffs of roughly 50 percent at the company.
Speaking to TechCrunch, Bossa Nova Robotics CEO Sarjoun Skaff declined to comment on the Wall Street Journal report but admitted that the company had been forced to “streamline our operations…” and that it would “continue deploying this technology with our partners in retail and in other fields.”
In 2019, Forbes named Bossa Nova to its AI 50: America’s Most Promising Artificial Intelligence Companies list. It was ranked at no. 31. Based on the Forbes article and its own corporate website, Bossa Nova had reportedly had its products in 350 stores in the United States and Europe and was aiming to be operating in 1,000 stores by the end of 2020.