Amazon Begins Testing New Humanoid Robot in Fulfillment Centers That Can Replace Humans




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Amazon is taking automation to a new level with the help of Agility Robotics humanoids designed by Carnegie Mellon University’s alums.

These robots, named Digits, can pick up and carry packages around the warehouse on two legs. The humanoids stand 5 feet and 9 inches tall and are designed to adhere to Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards. They work like bipedal humans, sorting and retrieving items to fill orders and even walking back to the charging stations when their batteries run low.

Amazon partnered with Agility, a robotics company founded in 2016 by Carnegie Mellon University alums, to launch its collection of robot workers.

“New robotic solutions… will support workplace safety and help Amazon deliver to customers faster,” Amazon said in a blog post.

The robots are part of Amazon’s goal to streamline deliveries and make the process more efficient to cut down on operational costs and aid workers. The new robots can carry heavy items for warehouse workers and reach merchandise on high or low shelves to reduce the risk of injury to an actual human employee. 

However, workers are wary of the new technology, wondering if it will eventually leave them jobless. Amazon says the company has no plans to replace workers and that Digits are intended to relieve workers of tedious, repetitive tasks so they can divert their attention to more pressing matters.

“Despite the logistics industry pushing out a non-trivial amount of robots in the past ten years, not only has there not been any job loss associated with it, the number of unfilled jobs has actually increased,” said Damion Shelton, chief executive officer of Agility.

Amazon employs 750,000 robots, and Agility plans to make 10,000 Digit units a year. Amazon has invested $1 billion in Agility through its Industrial Innovation Fund, which supports companies focused on innovating customer fulfillment, logistics, and supply chain through next-generation technology such as machine learning, automation, robotics, and space. The robots are being tested in fulfillment centers and warehouses, but Amazon sees a “big opportunity to scale.”

Image Credit: Amazon

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