Inside IRL, Walmart’s High-Tech Retail Prototype

New York storefront has a giant data center
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As retailers battle it out in the new era of inventory wars, Walmart’s newest store prototype demonstrates the company is going all-in.

Walmart provided a look into one of its newest store models, which the company has termed its “Intelligent Retail Lab (IRL).”

The 50,000-square-foot storefront, a Walmart Neighborhood Market in the New York City suburb of Levittown, N.Y., employs artificial intelligence and advanced data-collection methods to provide a high-tech consumer experience. It was developed with the company’s Store No 8 tech incubator, using sensors and cameras to deliver real-time information about inventory levels for more efficient restocking.

Walmart said it’s keeping privacy concerns at the forefront and chose to include interactive information stations and screens within the store that allows consumers to ask questions about the technology and the data being collected.

The retailer also noted it’s being cautious about the effort. “You can’t be overly enamored with the shiny object element of AI,” said Mike Hanrahan, CEO of IRL. “There are a lot of shiny objects out there that are doing things we think are unrealistic to scale and probably, long-term, not beneficial for the consumer.”

Walmart has steadily ramped up its technology-infused commerce experiments, rolling out such efforts as virtual shopping tours and adding hundreds of robots to all of its stores. It’s also piloting a cashier-less Sam’s Club in Dallas.

See also: What AI Will Mean For Retail

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