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Tally is a “shy” robot. 

Unlike the gregarious, extroverted Pepper robot seen roaming in shopping malls and interacting with customers and answering questions, Tally quietly does its thing with the occasional beeping sound. 

The unobtrusive self-driving machine can be spotted at the first U.S. location of the French sporting goods store Decathlon in downtown San Francisco. The lanky machine on wheels is the first fully autonomous inventory robot, meaning it roves aisles and tracks RFID chips on nearly 10,000 products. 

It’s not supposed to really interact with customers – that’s a duty left to the store’s workers. But it’s friendly enough, with a short message on it that says “Hi, I’m Tally!” and digital eyes to give it a human-like appearance as it roams around.

“Hi, I’m Tally.”

Image: sasha lekach / mashable

It’s something like a Roomba, the robotic vacuum cleaner that you’re supposed to ignore as it works. From Simbe Robotics, Tally uses LiDAR, RealSense 3D sensor tech from Intel, cameras, and computer vision to check inventory and pricing. It can also flag any items in the wrong place. It “sees” obstacles blocking its way and is programmed to move away from crowds of people. 

Tally is in other grocery stores and retail shops and has logged 10,000 miles of inventory checks and constant scanning. The new partnership with the athletic equipment store means more Tallys could appear at more stores as the French company expands into the U.S. Another Bay Area store is opening next year.

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Instead of being relegated to a store room or a massive warehouse, Tally is out in the open, working alongside real, human workers. It doesn’t seem that distracting and the workers seem to appreciate that it’s doing work that they’d have to do (like manually counting items and marking what’s low and needs replenishing).

Even if you physically go to a store, the experience has become even more digital than it used to be. 

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