Marty grocery store robot

Marty is a 6-foot-3, 140-pound service robot that detects and alerts managers to spills, scans shelves for out-of-date items, and price discrepancies in over 500 GIANT/MARTIN'S, Stop & Shop, and other supermarkets across the USA.

Developed by Badger Technologies, Marty uses embedded cameras and sensors to navigate and avoid customers and store displays and costs approximately USD 35,000.

Operator: Ahold Delhaize/Stop & Shop; Ahold Delhaize/GIANT/MARTIN'S
Developer: Jabil/Badger Technologies

Country: USA

Sector: Retail

Purpose: Improve customer experience 

Technology: Robotics; Computer vision; Object recognition
Issue: Appropriateness/need; Dual/multi-use; Privacy; Surveillance; Employment - jobs

Transparency: Governance; Marketing; Privacy

Risks and harms 🛑

Marty the grocery store robot was accused of potential job displacement, privacy concerns relating to constant surveillance, and the normalisation of intrusive technological presence in public spaces. 

Marty was met by a mixture of intrigue, amusement, confusion, and incredulity by supermarket shoppers. Some people took to social media to express their concerns that they appeared to be being watched; others think Marty was weird and creepy.

Marty's introduction also prompted some supermarket employees to complain that Marty appears to do relatively little, get in the way, and create more work when they go wrong.

Meantime, unionists and employment protection advocates voiced their concerns that Marty and similar robots will replace employee jobs, with some pointing out that Marty's introduction coincided with a major strike over compensation issues.

According to the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), Marty 'may result in significant cost savings ... with employees spend(ing) hours per day checking for hazards and checking inventory.' 

'The impact on workers appears to be small' A3 said, 'since Marty primarily alerts workers to problems. As the technology grows and additional functions are added like stocking shelves, workers may be freed up to perform other tasks, including deploying and maintaining the service robots.'

Transparency 🙈

Unionists and civil rights activists expressed concerns that Marty could easily be used for additional purposes, thereby putting extra strain on workers and leading to job losses. Per The Counter, Ahold Delieze informed investors that it would invest in automation and AI to supplement or replace human labour. 

'We are partnering on technologies that are not only helping us make the customer experience even more personal and relevant but also operate more efficiently and manage labor shortages in our markets. This includes exciting new collaborations in artificial intelligence and robotics' the company said in its 2018 Annual Report.

Page info
Type: System
Published: December 2022
Last updated: May 2024