Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has always been invested in science and technology and how they could shape the world. In 2019, Jeff Bezos predicted that robots would lead the world in the future and could very well replace humans at their jobs. Today, Amazon is moving towards the goal of using robots to handle their items.
Amazon, the largest online retailer in the United States, has a fleet of warehouses across the country with over 1.5 million employees. So having warehouse automation now is more relevant than ever in the online retail and e-commerce sector. The company’s science blog posted a video of a new prototype robot system that they are testing which uses a “ping-grasping” mechanism to separate and place items. This technology could one day make workers’ jobs easier or potentially replace them.
According to research inside Amazon, the company could potentially run out of candidates to hire by the year 2024 if they do not move towards automation. Simultaneously, the company is also undergoing a surge in employees unionizing against them, where activists have speculated for a long time that Amazon is looking more towards automation due to the increase in unionization.
Amazon’s director of Robotics and AI, Siddhartha Srinivasa, spoke on this matter, saying that the science of robotic manipulation is a groundbreaking technology and will meaningfully benefit employees and customers. He added that Amazon’s investments in robotics and technology make jobs more accessible and safer, creating new opportunities.
The video posted on Amazon’s science blog consisted of a robotic arm, which is not as advanced as one might imagine, picking up items and depositing them on a metal chute every three seconds, which is must faster than any human. Amazon claimed that at this rate, the robot could place more than 1000 items an hour, which is not only efficient but also takes the load off the workers. The robot has cameras that help it deduce where the items are placed, and then machine learning and motion-planning algorithms help the robot pick up the item and place it accordingly.
Relationship between Amazon & Robots
The future of this technology holds the question of when will Amazon be able to automate its systems fully. The question is not “if” Amazon is capable of deploying fully automated robots at their warehouses, but rather “when.” Earlier in June, Amazon introduced a prototype robot called “Cardinal” that lifts and sorts packaged orders. The company claimed that this robot reduced the risk of employees injuring themselves. Amazon has a rich history in robotics, and it also bought a company that made robots named Kiva for $775 million. Since then, they have rolled out more than 500,000 robots to do their warehouse jobs. So it’s just a matter of time before we see fully automated robots at warehouses.