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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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A&M researchers partner with Walmart on artificial intelligence technology

Walmart+Dallas+lab+director+Carlos+Riojas+%28right%29+and+professor+Zhangyang+Wang+speak+to+Texas+A%26amp%3BM+graduate+students.
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Walmart Dallas lab director Carlos Riojas (right) and professor Zhangyang Wang speak to Texas A&M graduate students.

Collaborations between Texas A&M and the Walmart Technology Office in Plano are underway to introduce artificial intelligence technologies to the supermarket giant’s operations. 
Walmart hopes to find new techniques to build digital and analytical solutions that will improve current internal processes. 
This work is a continuation of previous joint ventures between A&M computer researchers and Walmart developers, said assistant professor of computer science Zhangyang Wang.
“Walmart would like to increase their visibility among students interested in [AI and Machine Learning] careers,” Wang said. “Walmart’s Dallas Lab has been collaborating with me for a while.”
Wang is working with Ph.D. candidate Ye Yuan to write a paper focused on person re-identification, or person re-ID. This concept uses AI in video surveillance to detect and track whether a person of interest has been observed in another place and time by another camera. It could be used at Walmart to maintain public safety or obtain data through customer tracking.
“[They are] computer vision projects,” Yuan said. “We collaborate with Walmart to help to Walmart to better serve the customers.”
Yuan interned at Walmart’s lab over  the summer and said her projects required practical problem-solving skills.
“For example, some customer is walking around Walmart and if there is some water on the ground, they might fall and break their leg,” Yuan said. “There are cameras on the ceiling so it will detect if there is water on the floor and it will automatically let the employees of the Walmart know and to remove the water so it will be safer.”
Yuan said the goal is to help students through hands-on experience and develop useful tools that may also improve upon the work that Walmart is already doing.
Walmart has also sponsored the Graduate AI course this semester and will provide the top 10 students in the course’s project competition with an interview for an internship at the Walmart research lab. The top three additionally receive an $800 computer graphics card and the top two teams will have a chance to present their work in front of Walmart representatives.
Yuan said her three-month internship at Walmart was quite impactful since she had ample opportunities to implement new ideas. 
“I really enjoyed the atmosphere,” Yuan said. “I think everyone [was] so nice and so helpful. They did not force me to do something. I thought they gave me more freedom.”
Yuan said students, whether undergraduate or graduate, should explore AI topics since the field is expanding quickly, especially in the private sector.
“Recently, I was in Houston for the Grace Hopper conference — the women engineering conference,” Yuan said. “This was my third time there and the thing about this year is that more and more companies have some AI applications in their booth. If they are interested, this is a great direction for [students] to go.”

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