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Updated: May 11, 2019

Credit from Dennis Green

For Walmart, the future will be IRL.

The retailer has opened a new retail store to test some of the concepts its been working on in Levittown, New York. Walmart has modified a 50,000-square-foot neighborhood market — its in-house term for a grocery-focused store — to become the new playground.

Called the Intelligent Retail Lab — or IRL — the store is focused on inventory and availability.

"Customers can be confident about products being there, about the freshness of produce and meat. Those are the types of things that AI can really help with," Mike Hanrahan, CEO of IRL, said in prepared remarks.

The idea is that will lead to less friction in the shopping experience, and customers will find the item they need on the shelf more often than not, and it will be more efficient to keep that experience consistent.

Walmart is also focusing on other "real, practical solutions," according to the company's blog post, like keeping shopping carts stocked and the right amount of registers open, and not getting too ahead of itself.

"You can't be overly enamored with the shiny object element of AI," Hanrahan cautioned. "There are a lot of shiny objects out there that are doing things we think are unrealistic to scale and probably, long-term, not beneficial for the consumer."

The new tech-enabled initiatives will also benefit employees.

"We think it's something our associates will be excited about," Hanrahan said. "The technology has been built to improve associates' jobs, to make their jobs more interesting, to help them alleviate some of the mundane tasks. AI can enhance their skill set in a very rapidly changing world."'

Welcome to Walmart IRL — or Intelligent Retail Lab.

Walmart transitioned a 50,000 square foot Neighborhood Market in Levittown, New York for the project.

The new concept is designed to test the use of artificial intelligence in retail stores.

First up: product inventory and availability. The store will use a combination of both cameras and analytics to trigger out-of-stock alerts for employees when a customer takes the last item, so the store can quickly restock.

To power that, the store has its own attached data center with 100 servers behind a glass wall that customers can see and interact with.

There are also educational screens customers can interact with, to learn more about what Walmart is doing differently in this store.

Two large displays enable customers to interact with it using their bodies.

The 100 servers contain 400 GPUs and 10 cooling towers.

IRL isn't just customer-focused, and the AI-enabled benefits will change the game for Walmart's employees as well.

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