NEW YORK — Forget the 12 drummers drumming — as part of the holiday celebration at its flagship 59th Street store here, Bloomingdale’s has 12 ABB robots. The robots are the focus of three of Bloomingdale’s iconic holiday window displays at Lexington and Third Avenues. ABB said the interactive displays demonstrate the potential for technology to “revolutionize visual merchandising and make the retail experience more dynamic and whimsical.”
ABB and long-time creative partner andyRobot said they have used human-robot interaction at Bloomingdale’s to engage shoppers through a unique visual experience and to explore how robotics technologies could be applied in a retail environment.
12 robots entertaining at Bloomingdale’s
In one window, four ABB robots work together to create an autonomous Christmas tree decorating display. Two floor-mounted and two ceiling-mounted IRB 120 robots coordinate their movements to pass 20 gold ornaments to each other, placing them on the branches, before stripping the tree and starting the 30-minute process again.
A festive orchestra of four ABB IRB 1200 robots play brass shakers, a tambourine, a concert chime and a futuristic digital xylophone to entertain shoppers with a range of Christmas carols.
Visitors to Bloomingdales can interact with the robot performers from the street and choose from three holiday classics: “Deck the Halls,” “Jingle Bells,” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
Meanwhile, pressing a button on the window takes a picture of the visitors which appears on a video monitor behind the robot band inside the window display.
It wouldn’t be a holiday celebration without karaoke, so the third display is a RoboScreen Christmas Carol Karaoke window. Shoppers can select from a range of holiday songs, with the lyrics appearing on three moving 38-in. graphical screens attached to the arms of three IRB 120 robots.
RoboScreens, patented by robot animator andyRobot, bring highly coordinated six-axis motion to video displays, said ABB. Assembling in various formations, when together RoboScreens can display one large cohesive video or image, and when apart they can display individual, synchronized images that virtually jump from screen to screen. This creates a highly engaging and dynamic viewer experience which, in this case, inspires window shoppers on the street to participate in the festive singalong.
Andy Flessas, a.k.a. andyRobot, is an American robotics designer, computer animator and proprietor of the company Robotic Arts. He invented the RoboScreen, a robotically controlled video display, and is the author of RobotAnimator software.
RobotAnimator is a plug-in for computer animation software Maya that allows robots to glide, sway and loop, among other stunts. Flessas began working with ABB Robotics in 1999, and since then he has developed robotics solutions for the artistic and entertainment industry all over the world.
YuMi cobot serves coffee
Inside Bloomingdales, ABB’s dual-arm collaborative YuMi robot demonstrates the latest Nespresso coffee experience serving shoppers a choice of coffee.
Designed to work safely alongside humans, customers can interact directly with YuMi to create a unique merchandising experience for Nespresso by allowing customers to see their new product in action.
With its precision and mobility, YuMi automates the entire brewing process, from handling and loading the selected drink pod, to serving the hot beverage and disposing of the used capsule for recycling.
“We are excited to be part of such an iconic celebration as shoppers in New York kick off the holiday season. As well as bringing some festive cheer to Bloomingdales’ customers, we are showcasing how robotics and automation technology could help revitalize the retail experience,” stated Marc Segura, ABB’s global head of service robotics. “Our demonstrations in Bloomingdales show how robotics can make visual merchandising more dynamic and engaging.
Knowing when they’re bad or good
All of the robots at Bloomingdale’s are being monitored 24 hours a day by the ABB team from its U.S. robotics headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich., using ABB Ability Connected Services technology. The system remotely monitors and analyzes intelligence directly from the robots, allowing ABB technicians to identify and address potential issues that could lead to an unplanned stoppage before it occurs.
“In the future, retailers could use robotics to create innovative mediums to interact with customers, demonstrate products and engage at the point-of-sale with far more appeal and relevance than traditional static point-of-sale displays,” said Segura.