Future Tense

John Oliver Warns About the New Lowe’s Robot Sales Assistants

Robots are getting less creepy and more social, but John Oliver wants to make sure we all keep some perspective. So when he saw that Lowe’s is starting to test robot sales assistants, he just had to warn couples and families everywhere: Robots are not going to be able to defuse the inevitable tension that comes from shopping at home improvement stores.

The OSHbot was developed by Lowe’s Innovation Labs, which focuses on “making science fiction a reality.” The robot can greet people when they come into the store, speak with them in multiple languages, figure out what customers are looking for, and go with them to find the correct product.


One of OSHbot’s most useful features seems to be that it can look at something a customer has brought in to replace, like a particular screw or mechanical part, identify it, and bring the customer to the product. It’s a quick way to find that incredibly specific type of nail or tile you’re looking for.

But Oliver warns that the robots aren’t at all qualified or able to manage the interpersonal stress of shopping for home supplies. He say, “[Robots] don’t realize that home improvement stores are a lethal combination of everything that can ruin a relationship: spending money, reconciling tastes, long-term planning, and florescent lighting.”

OSHbots probably have other limitations, too, but if enough people get divorced over them, that’ll be reason enough for Lowe’s to reconsider its strategy.