Guess Who’s Stocking the Shelves At Japanese Convenience Stores

Family Mart, Japan’s second-largest convenience store chain, has begun using AI-powered robots to restock shelves as a way to deal with the country’s shrinking workforce. The decline in labor population is one of the biggest threats to businesses operating in Japan, and some have already started looking for ways to replace human workers. Family Mart’s new “employees” will be in charge of replenishing drinks in refrigerators and are expected to make human workers’ jobs easier and, in some cases, replace them completely. According to robot maker Telexistence, one robot can replace 1-3 hours of human labor per day, per convenience store. The shelf-stocking robots can work without any human assistance 98% of the time. The other 2% of the time, they can be controlled remotely by humans using virtual reality headsets. So far, the robots have been brought on board at 300 of Family Mart locations across Japan. Just in case you think American convenience stores are safe from AI-powered, job-stealing robots, think again. Telexistence and Microsoft have both announced plans to expand into the U.S. convenience store market.