Bossa Nova today announced its next-generation of shelf-scanning robot dubbed, appropriately enough, the Bossa Nova 2020, which will make its debut at the National Retail Federation show this coming January.
Bossa Nova’s robot roams store aisles, scanning shelves as it goes to identify any gaps in the inventory so retailers can keep items fully stocked. It does this through a combination of shelf barcode reading, to know what items should be where, as well as computer vision to identify products.
The Bossa Nova 2020 features a smarter camera than the previous version that can see deeper into the shelf, and a lot more computing power. “We dramatically upgraded the onboard edge computing,” Sarjoun Skaff, CTO of Bossa Nova told me by phone this week. “We built our own computer, consolidating three server-like computers into a single board with four CPUs and three GPUs.”
Images are processed by the camera itself, and information is then handed over to the onboard computer, which sends data up to the cloud where Bossa Nova’s AI takes over to analyze the images and deliver insights to store managers in real time.
In addition to static product boxes on store shelves, with new attachments, the Bossa Nova 2020 can now scan additional sections of the grocery store like produce aisles and frozen food sections. For something like fruit, Bossa nova doesn’t do a complete count of the products, but rather identifies product gaps in displays.
The Bossa Nova 2020 is also thinner than its predecessor, giving humans in aisles more room to move and allowing smaller format stores to use the robot. Skaff also said that they have added controls on the robot itself so store employees can interact directly with the robot on the spot.
Roaming robots are something that shoppers and store employees will increasingly have to deal with. Earlier this year Walmart, which launched first-gen Bossa Novas in 50 locations back in 2017, announced it would expand that fleet to 300 hundred locations. Giant Eagle started testing Simbe’s Tally robot in stores, and Ahold Delhaize said it ordered almost 500 of Badger Technologies “Marty” robots (though those don’t do inventory management).
One thing Skaff said Bossa Nova won’t do, however, is put googley eyes on its robots, saying that while they want the robot to be approachable, they want to convey that it is an appliance, a tool, and not the work of Hollywood sci-fi.
One thing I’ve wondered about this past year is how much of a stopgap robots are when it comes to inventory management. In April, Walmart unveiled it’s AI-powered Intelligent Retail Lab (IRL) store, which uses banks of installed cameras to monitor inventory all the time in real-time (i.e., no waiting for a robot to come down the aisle).
It seem as though this isn’t lost on Bossa Nova. Though the company hasn’t formally changed its name, Bossa Nova Robotics dropped the “Robotics” part entirely in the press release for this latest news, referring to itself only as “Bossa Nova.” Common Sense Robotics did something similar this year when it changed its name to Fabric.
Skaff even talked about how Bossa Nova is looking ahead post-robot. “I think the future will have a mix of a little bit of everything,” Skaff told me. “Some fixed cameras, robots, perhaps even some flying cameras, crowdsourced cameras, smart shelves. All of these are sources of data.”
Because ultimately, data and AI is what Boss Nova is all about. It doesn’t even charge retailers for the robots, instead making money by having clients subscribe to its data analytics platform.
Robots may be futuristic, but the future belongs to those who collect, comprehend and analyze data.