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Walmart accelerates usage of AI tech, others hit the brakes

Walmart accelerates usage of AI tech while other large retailers hit the breaks
Walmart accelerates usage of AI tech while other large retailers hit the breaks

While some are embracing technology, others are still standing on the sidelines, dipping their toes in the pool of opportunities, cautiously optimistic about the AI future

America’s mega-retail operator, Walmart, believes technology has a great purpose to empower people. It is boldly written on their website with AI they “create conveniences that benefit everyone”.

Unsurprisingly, Walmart is now rolling out AI “assistants” to 50,000 employees. This in an attempt to help ease the workload and improve productivity. 

But the AI-powered future is not embraced with open arms by all. It’s quite the opposite reaction from the likes of Samsung and other retail giants. These corporate giants are, in fact, “restricting” AI in the workplace.

Walmart’s new AI-employees

Walmart has launched a GenAI-powered feature called My Assistant in the US. This will simplify employees’ workload by “speeding up the drafting process, to serving as a creative partner,” says executive vice president at Walmart, Donna Morris. 

It’s also capable of summarizing large documents. “My Assistant has the potential to change how our associates work and solve problems,” explains Morris in a blog on LinkedIn. 

She believes this tool will be a game-changer for staff to increase their productivity. “Ideally, this technology will free them from monotonous, repetitive tasks, allowing more time and focus for improving the customer/member experience. Just picture the scale of what we can accomplish by putting a simple, easy-to-use GenAI tool in the hands of tens of thousands of associates versus limiting the use of GenAI to just a few.”

Others see red flags, whereas Walmart sees opportunity

For many, this is where the red flags pop up. Many corporations see placing a new powerful tool in the hands of employees as irresponsible. But Walmart sees it differently. “We’ve been working with AI and precursors to the underlying GenAI tech for years, and we’ve developed guidelines to aid associates in the responsible usage of this technology,” Morris says. 

Walmart sees opportunity, says its executive vice president: “We see a lot of opportunity across the enterprise to remove friction, provide a personalized interface and deliver the tools our associates need right in the palm of their hands, and My Assistant is just one way we’re streamlining the associate experience with technology.”

It’s also not planning to stop here either. The company has new developments on the horizon. The company also expands on “convenient, integrated self-service capabilities” to drive requests.

Samsung and other retailer giants hit the brakes

Bloomberg reported earlier this year that Samsung told its workers to “be careful” when using ChatGPT. The concerns are around “personal details or private company information” being fed into the chatbot. This information was sent to staff only; however, Samsung has not yet responded to the media claims. 

At the same time, Business Insider reports that Amazon placed limits on how employees can use ChatGPT. It reportedly spat out responses that “mirror the retail giant’s internal data.” 

Copyright concerns with AI

While the world is exploring the pros and cons of machine learning, the US Copyright Office is open for public comments. It wants to establish whether AI infringes copyrights and, if so, how it should be handled. 

Written comments must be submitted before 18 October 2023, and replies to the Copyright Office by 15 November.

About the author

Mia is a multi-award-winning journalist. She has more than 14 years of experience in mainstream media. She's covered many historic moments that happened in Africa and internationally. She has a strong focus on human interest stories, to bring her readers and viewers closer to the topics at hand.

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