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Amazon Tests Humanoid Robots to Assist Workers

Amazon Office
Amazon is testing humanoid robots in their US-based warehouses to improve operations and aid employees. Credit: Nokib Sarkar / CC-BY-SA-4.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Amazon is conducting trials with humanoid robots in their US warehouses to streamline operations and assist workers. The company claimed that this move aims to enhance productivity and provide employees with more opportunities to serve customers effectively.

Amazon’s recent trials involve the implementation of a sophisticated robot named Digit. It is equipped with human-like capabilities, including walking, grasping, and handling items.

Concerns Over Job Losses

Stuart Richards from the UK trade union GMB raised concerns about Amazon’s increasing reliance on automation. He expressed worries in his statement to BBC, noting that “hundreds of jobs disappear to it in fulfilment centers.” However, Amazon refutes this claim, stating that their robotics investments have led to the creation of various skilled roles within the company. According to Amazon, more than 750,000 robots are working collaboratively with human staff, mainly focusing on repetitive tasks.

Tye Brady, Amazon Robotics’ chief technologist, highlights the pivotal role of humans, the Guardian reports. He called people “irreplaceable” in the company’s operation, emphasizing that they “are so central to the fulfillment process.” Moreover, he expressed his desire to “eliminate all the menial, the mundane and the repetitive” tasks within Amazon’s operations.

Appearance and Capabilities of Amazon’s Robot

Digit’s appearance resembles the human look. The robot doesn’t use wheels to move. Instead, it moves on two legs and uses its arms to handle various objects.

It was developed by an Oregon startup Agility Robotics in collaboration with Amazon. Standing at 5 feet, 9 inches tall and weighing 143 pounds, this robot can walk in multiple directions, crouch, and lift objects weighing up to thirty-five pounds.

Scott Dresser from Amazon Robotics underscored, in speaking to the BBC, the importance of safety in integrating robots into warehouse operations. He explained that the trial aims to assess the robot’s compatibility with human employees and its performance in real-life scenarios.

In addition, Amazon announced the introduction of the Sequoia robotic system at one of its Houston warehouses. The system is designed to accelerate deliveries by speeding up inventory identification and storage, resulting in a potential seventy-five percent increase in efficiency. Amazon also aims to reduce order processing times by up to twenty-five percent.

Amazon’s First Smart Island Hub on the Greek Island of Naxos

In 2022, Amazon declared its aim to build the inaugural “smart” island hub on Naxos, Greece. The project was part of the extensive “Naxos, Smart Island” initiative, involving seventeen technology-centric actions.

The proposed plan involved the integration of drones for various applications, including maritime surveillance, medical supply transportation, and enhanced connectivity among the Aegean islands. Notably, the project employed Greek-manufactured heavy-duty drones, showcasing a significant step forward in the region’s technological advancements.

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