What happened now? Amazon has a long history of building robots not only for consumers, but for its many warehouses around the world. His latest machine falls into the latter category, and it has the distinction of being the company’s first “fully autonomous” warehouse robot that doesn’t have to be isolated from humans while it’s working.
Amazon this week announced Proteus, a warehouse robot that, unlike its previous autonomous machines, can operate without having to be restricted to restricted (i.e. closed) warehouse areas.
The tech giant says Proteus is using advanced security, sensing and navigation technology developed by Amazon to automatically avoid human employees as it navigates the warehouse while performing its duties, including lifting and moving GoCarts — large wheeled cages used to store items — from one area of the object to another. The video shows Proteus firing a green beam in front of him, stopping whenever the person breaks the beam.
Initially, Proteus will be deployed in GoCart’s outbound traffic handling areas at Amazon Fulfillment and Sorting Centers. The company said the robots will reduce the need for people to manually move heavy objects and allow them to instead “focus on more rewarding work” – whatever that may be.
“From the early days of acquiring Kiva, our vision has never been tied to a binary decision about people or technology. Instead, it was about people and technology working together safely and harmoniously to deliver value to our customers,” writes Amazon.
While Amazon tends to claim that its robots benefit warehouse workers, Show leaked internal data in 2020 that showed that facilities without robots had lower injury rates than those that used machines. It is also believed that robotic warehouses have higher production quotas.
As is always the case with automation, the increased autonomy of Amazon’s warehouse robots raises concerns that more machines will take people’s jobs. But, according to a leaked memo last year, Amazon may ran out of people hire in its warehouses in the US by 2024, a scenario that is likely to further increase its reliance on robots.
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