A robot sold us a Chris Cornell CD at Best Buy

- We went to Best Buy to buy a CD and never talked to a human being. Instead, a computer and robot named Chloe sold us a CD. And by "we" I mean me. Here is what happened. Best Buy is experimenting with full automation -- in the form of a robot -- to sell a decidedly old-fashioned medium: CDs and DVDs. I'm in my 40s, so yes I remember vinyl records, tapes and even 8-tracks. So I still do like buying at least some of my music on that soon-to-no-longer-exist format called the compact disc.


When I walked into Best Buy in Chelsea recently to get Chris Cornell's latest album ("Higher Truth" -- it's pretty good), I was surprised to see a row of ATM-like kiosks in front of a glassed-in compartment housing a yellow robot. That robot's name is Chloe. And its job is to sell you music, movies, games, and accessories.

I scanned through the music selections on the touch-screen kiosk, found the CD, clicked "buy now," swiped my credit card, and then watched as the robot -- basically a huge version of Armitron (yes, I am dating myself again) whizzed up and down a wall of shelves looking for the CD. It retrieved the disc, scrolled over to me, and promptly dropped the disc into a bin next to the kiosk. Done. No searching the shelves downstairs, no asking an employee who may know nothing about solo albums by fiftysomething Soundgarden singers, no waiting in line. [Watch the video.]

No human contact. (Is that good or bad? I don't know. Efficiency ultimately costs people their jobs but at least this way, Best Buy workers can focus on customers who need help with much more complex products and services.)

The Chelsea location at West 23rd Street and Avenue of the Americas is the first Best Buy store to feature the Chloe robot, according to Carly Charlson, a company spokesperson. She said the robot may come to others stores.

"We're looking to see how customers like it and how they use it before we make any decisions," Charlson said.

Two of the Chloe kiosks are located in the vestibule, which is open 24 hours a day. That means if your headphones break or you forget your iPhone charger you can get replacements whenever. (In this way, Chloe is kind of like that Best Buy vending machine you see in airports and hotels but on steroids.)
It also means that if you desperately want the "Mad Max" saga on Blu-ray at 11 p.m. for an all-night binge session and streaming them on Amazon or iTunes just won't do, hey knock yourself out. Progress.

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