Carnegie Mellon robotics students design ‘store of the future'

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PITTSBURGH —

The store of the future could use robots to take inventory, and it may only be a few years away. Target 11 Consumer Investigator Robin Taylor got a look at what robotics experts at Carnegie Mellon are working on.

If you've ever gone into a store looking for something, and you couldn't find it, this new technology is for you.

I was given a demonstration on a large digital sign that you can scroll through like an iPad. Stored on the screen were photos of everything in the Carnegie Mellon University bookstore.

"Let's go over to where they have mugs, and if you want more information you can find out about a specific mug and get a discount," said associate professor Priya Narashimhan, with CMU's Electrical & Computer Engineering Department.

She told me the idea behind the display was to make it easier for shoppers to find what they're looking for.

"They should be able to go in and say, I'm a freshman in biology. I need this text book, and it should be able to point you to where it is in the store," said Narashimhan.

Here’s the coolest part.  Let's say I'm interested in buying a T-shirt, but I don't want to try it on.  The computer in the digital display will allow me to virtually try it on, so I can see if it's too big or too small.

"The camera would kind of figure out your movements and your shape and your size and let you try on clothes and potentially even share this with friends to show what you look like," said Narashimhan.

The virtual store could also be put online, and you could get coupons sent to your smart phone by scanning the bar code on an item you’re interested in.

Robotics students are perfecting the prototypes and will be testing them out when students return to campus this fall.

The funding for this research is coming from the computer processor Intel. 

The company is looking at ways to make retail more profitable.  You could start seeing digital signs in stores within the next few years.