Marty, a large, googly-eyed robot, has a friendly face and charming name, but a very serious job. He moves slowly through the aisles of this "Stop & Shop" supermarket in White Plains, New York, using cameras, referred to as "image capturing technology", and motion detectors to keep watch over customers and employees. The sign on the robot uses wording that seems suspiciously unclear that the robot is using cameras to record its surroundings. As well, vague and carefully worded explanations from store representatives tell the public that there are no plans for having the robot used for other security applications at this time, and that the robots are not currently being used to record consumers for any purpose except safety.
Employees have expressed frustration because the company has claimed that they are broke, despite the contradictory deployment of robots that will cost the store at least $9M in the near future, with plans to deploy even more down the road. Staffing cutbacks make little sense to employees while the company undertakes such a costly plan.
Customers have mixed reactions about the robots, according to social media posts and videos. Many report the seven foot tall robot as being suspicious or creepy, while others claim to enjoy the friendly look. Many find the robot annoying and bothersome as it towers over them and blocks the aisles.
Some obvious concerns about the robot center around the fact that the robot cannot perform any legitimate functions at the moment except to warn of spills or hazards, and the robot seems unable to do even this efficiently, reacting equally to a bread wrapper or bottlecap on the floor as it does to a larger object.Moving as slowly as it does, finding and reporting a hazard would not be a speedy process, which also contradicts the reported purpose of these robots.
It's a curious thing that a robot that is used to detect spills at floor level needs to be taller than the customers. Marty is equipped with sophisticated recording equipment which begs the question: 'what is the robot going to be used for in the future?" It seems only logical that Marty will soon be storing and distributing images of customers as it patrols the aisle of stores like Stop & Shop. With facial recognition software and other technology beyond our understanding, how will our privacy and safety be affected by this collection of our personal information as we shop for food. Marty would be more accurately named "Big Brother Marty".