A decade from now, according to Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, robotic systems will be sophisticated enough to grab objects with human-like dexterity. Amazon appears to be moving closer to that objective three years later.
In the retail and e-commerce sectors, warehouse automation is more important than ever, particularly for Amazon, which is the largest online retailer and the second-largest employer in the United States. Recode revealed in June that internal study at Amazon suggested that if it did not make a number of significant changes, such as boosting automation in its warehouses, it would run out of people to hire in the United States by 2024.
The corporation is simultaneously dealing with the possibility of US workers beginning to organise after the Amazon Labor Union won the historic Staten Island vote, as well as another union election that will take place in Upstate New York in October. For years, labour groups have conjectured that Amazon may increase its automation efforts in reaction to unionisation efforts.
— Advisory Excellence (@_aenetworking) September 27, 2022
It’s not as futuristic as you might think to look at the robotic arm in question. In place of a new grabbing mechanism, the proof-of-concept machine uses an ordinary metal pincher. But every three seconds, it may pick up a fresh object and drop it onto a metal chute.
According to Amazon, the robot could pick and store products at a rate several times faster than a human worker could at the rate it is moving in the video—more than 1000 items per hour. Each object is seized and handled without any human direction, from a crayon box to a bottle that appears to contain garlic powder to a whisk broom.
Multiple cameras are used by the robot to help it “see” the variety of items in front of it. Machine learning is also used to help the robot decide how to pick up a particular item, and motion-planning algorithms are used to help the robot move through the crowded area without bumping into or damaging any of the goods. Additionally, according to early tests, the robot breaks some objects considerably less frequently than other manipulation robots that Amazon has examined.
It’s unclear how long it will take Amazon to develop a single robot that can handle the majority of products, but “when,” not “if,” will this happen. One of the biggest mysteries of this age of automation will be resolved when the “when” becomes “now.” Will the task be easier or better for those doing these occupations if a new generation of warehouse robots can grab objects almost as well as human hands? Or will the development of technology make these workers and their employment unnecessary?