What’s Going on With Amazon’s “High-Tech” Warehouse Robots?

IEEE Spectrum

Amazon’s innovation blog recently published a post entitled “New technologies to improve Amazon employee safety,” which highlighted four different robotic systems that Amazon’s Robotics and Advanced Technology teams have been working on. Three of these robotic systems are mobile robots, which have been making huge contributions to the warehouse space over the past decade. Amazon in particular was one of the first (if not the first) e-commerce companies to really understand the fundamental power of robots in warehouses, with their $775 million acquisition of Kiva Systems’ pod-transporting robots back in 2012.

Since then, a bunch of other robotics companies have started commercially deploying robots in warehouses, and over the past five years or so, we’ve seen some of those robots develop enough autonomy and intelligence to be able to operate outside of restricted, highly structured environments and work directly with humans. Autonomous mobile robots for warehouses is now a highly competitive sector, with companies like Fetch Robotics, Locus Robotics, and OTTO Motors all offering systems that can zip payloads around busy warehouse floors safely and efficiently.

But if we’re to take the capabilities of the robots that Amazon showcased over the weekend at face value, the company appears to be substantially behind the curve on warehouse robots.

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