Amazon trials humanoid warehouse robots to support workforce

Amazon began using robotics in its facilities in 2012, and since then the company says it has added hundreds of thousands of jobs worldwide

Amazon says it has begun testing human-like robot solutions at its robotics research and development site to perform repetitive tasks and work collaboratively with employees.

The company has started testing Digit, a two-legged ​robot that can grasp and lift items, which comes as a result of its partnership with Agility Robotics. Amazon says the device will first be used to shift empty tote boxes, a ‘highly repetitive’ process.

“Digit can move, grasp, and handle items in spaces and corners of warehouses in novel ways,” the company said in an announcement. “Its size and shape are well suited for buildings that are designed for humans, and we believe that there is a big opportunity to scale a mobile manipulator solution, such as Digit, which can work collaboratively with employees.”

Robotics at Amazon

The world’s largest online retailer has shown a growing interest in robotics since founding its robotics arm, Amazon Robotics in 2003. The company acquired autonomous warehouse robotics startup Canvas Technology, which designs and develops mobile robotic technology for factories and warehouses, in 2020.

Amazon began using robotics in its facilities in 2012, and since then the company says it has added hundreds of thousands of jobs worldwide.

Last year Amazon revealed its intelligent robotic system, Sparrow, which it says streamlines the fulfilment process by moving individual products before they get packaged.

Amazon says Sparrow is the first robotic system in its warehouses that can detect, select, and handle individual products in its inventory. The company says Sparrow represents a significant advancement in the state-of-the-art technology of industrial robotics, leveraging computer vision and AI to recognise and handle millions of items.

“For over a decade, we’ve pioneered technology and robotics in our operations, driving innovation and growth that directly benefits our employees and customers,” Joseph Quinlivan, Vice President Fulfillment Technologies and Robotics at Amazon, said in a blog post earlier this year. “The rate of our innovation has only accelerated, thanks in large part to unprecedented advancements in AI. Throughout the years, we’ve consistently focused on building safe, practical, and dependable technology and robotics that optimise our supply chain.”

Amazon says the deployment of robots has created 700 categories of new job types, in skilled roles, which didn’t exist within the company beforehand

“By equipping our employees with new technology and training them to develop new skills, we’re creating career paths and new and exciting ways for people to contribute here at Amazon,” it says.

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