The aisles of your neighborhood grocery store are the latest testing ground for robotic technology.

Joining the likes of autonomous retail sales associates OSHbot and Pepper is a new device, "Tally," the first product launched by San Francisco startup Simbe Robotics.

Tally works in shelf auditing and analytics, informing stores about where merchandise has run out, what products are mispriced, what's been misplaced and so on. The idea is to trim down revenue lost when shoppers give up on locating hard-to-find or absent items.

Tally's aim is to help retailers "address these challenges by providing more precise and timely analysis of the state of in-store merchandise and freeing up staff to focus on customer service," Simbe CEO and cofounder Brad Bogolea said in a statement.

Tally looks like one of those freestanding air-purifying units sold at Sharper Image, and moves kind of like a Roomba. A promotional video shows Tally humming down grocery store aisles and using its sensors to  - hopefully-- avoid bumping into humans. The device stands 38 inches tall and weighs 30 pounds. It's now on trial at some North American locations.

Robots aren't yet a common sight in retail settings, but they're growing increasingly popular. Nestle Japan announced plans late last year to use humanoid robot Pepper to sell Nescafe machines. Pepper is also available for sale to consumers.

Also last year, an Orchard Supply Hardware store in San Jose was the first location of the Lowe's subsidiary to introduce customers to OSHbot. Customers can ask the robot where to find items and the robot can tell them or guide them to the right aisle.

In the realm of grocery stores, a Des Moines non-profit announced over the summer plans to launch an entirely robotic store where service would be automated.

Published on: Nov 10, 2015