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Walmart's future could include drone assistants and smart carts

A high-tech Walmart? We'd love to see that.

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Walmart is envisioning a high-tech future for its stores, based on the patents it recently filed. In fact, the devices it's considering sound like they'd be perfect for use in cashier-less stores similar to Amazon's, including a smart cart that can help shoppers navigate Walmart's aisles and find specific products. Another patent is for a wearable that can track either shoppers or employees as they enter and leave the premises. Walmart is also thinking of developing a drone that shoppers can summon with their phones to guide them to the specific item they're looking for.

Yet another patent is for a sensor that can detect the product you put in your cart, while three more are for for shelves that can sense the products in stock. In addition, it looks like the company is thinking of developing a vehicle identification system that makes it possible for a self-driving car fleet to coordinate with each other.

Walmart has yet to announce if it's planning to open fully automated stores in the future. If it does have plans do so, it'll be much harder to pull off than Amazon Go, considering Walmart's stores are much, much bigger. That last patent, however, hints on the possibility of Walmart doing deliveries using self-driving cars. While they'll all be interesting to see, there's no guarantee that Walmart will ever build these devices. We might never see them, or Walmart might surprise us with a robotic store -- either way, we'll just have to wait for the retailer's next move.

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