Blind woman 'stalked' by Woolworths robot in supermarket

Josh Dutton
News Reporter

A blind woman has criticised Woolworths over a “silly” robot which “stalked” her while she was shopping with her guide dog at a Melbourne supermarket.

Casey Hyde was taking her guide dog Bridget through a Woolworths on Tuesday when she was confronted by a tall, white robot.

Ms Hyde, who has 10 per cent of her vision, told Yahoo News Australia the robot kept following her down the aisle and repeating the word, “obstruction”.

“It’s designed to find things blocking the aisle and the robot thought Bridget was an obstruction,” she said.

“It scared the dog and also distracted her.”

Casey Hyde said this Woolworths OH&S robot wouldn't stop bothering her while she shopped with her guide dog Bridget (pictured bottom left). Source: Supplied

She claims the robot followed her throughout the supermarket and believes because Bridget is black and weighs about 39kg she might have been mistaken for a bin.

“It was confronting for me – the robot wasn’t helping me feel comfortable,” Ms Hyde said.

She claimed a stranger had to help her finish her shopping because “she could not see if the robot was coming or not”.

Woolies rolled out ‘Greggles’, another version of this OH&S robot, at a Gregory Hills supermarket, west of Sydney, in May last year.

The feedback on the machine, which alerts people to hazards such as spills in the aisle, was largely negative.

Ms Hyde doesn’t like this one in Melbourne either.

“This issue should not ever come up,” she said.

“It shows a bit of ignorance towards people with disabilities – how are people in wheelchairs or with prams supposed to get through the aisle with this robot?”

Ms Hyde said the robot distracted Bridget from being able to do her job. Source: Supplied

The woman added she’s “really concerned” if the “silly robots” get rolled out on a large scale they might hinder instead of help people trying to do their shopping.

“I just want people to be able to enjoy their shopping instead of worrying about being stalked by a penis-shaped robot,” Ms Hyde said.

A Woolworths spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia the supermarket wants all customers “to feel welcome” and on this occasion regret it “wasn’t the case”.

The spokesperson added someone’s spoken to Ms Hyde about the incident and “will look into the details with the robot manufacturer as a priority”.

“The safety robot is part of a trial designed to improve customer safety and experience in the store, and we're closely monitoring customer feedback on it,” the spokesperson said.

“These robots operate in hundreds of stores across the world and have been subject to extensive safety testing by the manufacturer. They have sensors built in and are programmed to stop or move away from any fixed or moving objects.”

Yahoo News understands three robots are currently being trialled to roam stores on a predetermined route to scan the floor for safety hazards. If they come across one, they alert staff to it.

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