If you shop at grocery stores in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania or New Jersey, then you may have met Marty the Robot taking care of a clean-up on Aisle 4.
Stop & Shop has begun to introduce these robots into their stores, with more state expansion coming soon. While these Marty-bots are mainly used to handle the task of detecting spills, food writer Corby Kummer told Boston Public Radio on Monday that he thinks this technology has alternative motives.
At the moment, the introduction of these Marty robots seems somewhat humorous and harmless, Kummer said. “It’s easy to make fun of these things. They have big eyes that are supposed to make them look goofy and friendly as if they’re your pals and they’re just there to keep the floors clean.”
But Kummer says these robots indicate a change in how stores get information about their customers.
“This is one more branch of the surveillance state. They’re going to start surveilling you, your buying habits, how long you spend in front of each item. There’s going to be all kinds of information that you are unwillingly giving away as these devices roam the aisles supposedly looking for milk spills," Kummer said.
Kummer also believes that Marty robots and other upcoming grocery store tech are a threat to employees.
"Who wants to be watched by a robot or run into a robot in the aisles? It’s got an inhumane, dystopian, terrible touch that’s a way of driving out employees. Whatever Stop & Shop says now, it will replace the labor force,” he said.
Kummer is a senior editor at The Atlantic, an award-winning food writer, and a senior lecturer at the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition and Policy.