Snack robots
Source: Business Insider

Walmart deploys snack robots in parking lots

Walmart snack robots which made headlines earlier in the year are once again commanding the spotlight, this time on TikTok. Earlier this year, Walmart announced that it would deploy a team of remote-controlled robots to its parking lots. The venture is in collaboration with the tech startup, Tortoise, and was initially pitched as “automated vending machines that can drive to a shopper’s vehicle.” Although these experimental snack robots left the headlines, they are once again becoming the topic of discussion on TikTok, thanks to the curiosity of the TikTok folk. Read along to know more.

Walmart Tests Robotic Mobile Vending Machine by Tortoise
Source: Business Insider

Snack Robots At Work

The shoppers can use credit cards for payment following which they can grab their items from the robot. Walmart said that it will deploy the Tortoise robot at “store 100 near its Bentonville, Arkansas headquarters” to experiment and see if this special vending experience wins the approval of the customers. The story about the robots and all the related reporting pretty much stopped there. However, netizens were way too curious to let go of an interesting story too soon. And that is when TikTok entered the picture. A user named Sarah who goes by the name @reallifesarah918 on TikTok decided to take matters into her own hands and visited the store in the month of July to see the robots in the action. The video she posted amassed over 185,000 views on TikTok.

How Do They Work?

The robot drives up to the customer’s vehicles and tells them that it is a ‘smart store,’ following which it specifies the two available options, Kinder Joy and Jack Links jerky. If the customer is in the mood for either of the items, they have to pay using Apple Pay, Google Pay, or a tap-to-pay credit card. Once the payment is done, the container opens and they can take the item of their choice. Yet another video from Sarah shows how the robot just wanders the parking lot when there is no customer to be found.

Although it looks like these are self-driving machines, in reality, they are not. As per the claims of Tortoise, each robot is “teleoperated by remote ‘drivers’ across the world.”

Initially, customers found these snack robots quite interesting, with some even comparing them to the food robots in pokemon movies. However, soon the interest turned to criticism.

“Who the fuck wants a kinder egg or beef jerky mid-walk in the parking lot,” one user commented

Another stated the futility of these robots since there is already a vending machine at the entrance.