Like the AI chatbot ChatGPT that’s electrified the tech industry, the $35,000 machine known as Marty the robot — fitted with an assortment of cameras and lasers, as well as friendly-looking googly eyes — has given people a glimpse of tomorrow. Already, for example, these robots have been a familiar sight at Giant grocery stores, patrolling the aisles for spills and out-of-stock items, among other simple tasks.
It’s important to remember, though, that these kinds of technologies aren’t infallible. Chatbots, for one, don’t possess a human-level understanding of the world. And the Marty unit at one Pennsylvania store was captured in a viral video rolling through the parking lot, in what the internet has joked was a slow-rolling dash for freedom — serving as evidence to some people that even robots can’t stand working retail.
“Marty escaped from the Hellertown Giant and almost made it to freedom before he was wrangled back to his grocery prison,” reads the post that accompanies the video above, shared to the Lehigh Valley with Love Facebook group and credited to Rebecca Prendergast. It’s been viewed almost 3 million times as of this writing.
In the video, Marty is seen rolling amid parked cars, though he’s quickly cornered and brought back inside by employees. It’s also important to know that these units include sensors that ostensibly prevent them from colliding with people or objects like cars.
The Marty units are among several hundred automated robots deployed at US grocery stores in a pilot project starting back in 2019. And they’ve been seen wearing signs that announce helpful introductions, like: “Marty is an autonomous robot that uses image capturing technology to report spills, debris, and other potential hazards to store employees to improve your shopping experience.”
Quipped one viewer, in a comment attached to the Facebook video: “My 4-year-old asked today if Marty could come to our house and I said he doesn’t leave the store and there Marty goes making a liar out of me!“