The Robotic Grocery Store of the Future Is Here

Most people don’t buy a jar of relish every week. But when they decide to buy one from Ocado—the world’s largest online-only grocery retailer—they don’t have to scrabble at the back of the store. Instead, they call on robots and artificial intelligence to have it delivered to their door. Ocado claims that its 350,000-square-foot warehouse in Dorden, near the U.K.’s second city of Birmingham, is more heavily automated than Amazon’s warehouse facilities. The company’s task is certainly more challenging in many respects: most of the 48,000 lines of goods that it sells are perishable, and many must be chilled or frozen. Some, such as sushi, must be delivered on the same day they arrive in the warehouse. That turns storing, picking, and shipping items into a complex, time-constrained optimization problem.…


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