Meet the robots that will help pick your Black Friday orders

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As more of our goods and gifts are being bought online, robots are set to play a bigger role in e-commerce warehouses.

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why it matters: with retailers struggle to meet demand For workers in a tight labor market, smarter robots that can adapt to the often chaotic conditions of a warehouse can help bridge the gap.

when you place An online order this holiday season, it will need to be fulfilled by a retailer, which means the goods have to be physically picked up and packed in a warehouse.

  • This work has usually been done by humans – till August, about 150,000 more people E-commerce warehouses were more employed than before the pandemic.
  • While the often monotonous work may seem perfect for a robot, the unpredictable environment of a warehouse and the diverse nature of various goods—think everything from a tube of toothpaste to a crystal sculpture—is “considered non-automated,” says Simon Calouche. Says, founder and CEO of Nimble Robotics.

yes but: Retailers — particularly brick-and-mortar companies that are shifting an increasing amount of their business to e-commerce — are Having trouble finding enough workers, opening the door to automation.

  • Kishor Boyalakuntala, vice president of products at robotics supply chain provider Berkshire Grey, “More companies are turning to robotic solutions not to outdo the e-commerce boom, but just to maintain their existing orders and anticipate the holiday season.” For.” told Nerdshala this week,

how it works: Agile Robotics is using computer vision-enabled AI — and human assistants — to train robots to pick up and pack a wide variety of e-commerce goods.

  • “We use an algorithm called imitation learning, where you use a human to remotely operate a robot to complete a certain task,” says Nimble’s Kalouche. “If you do this hundreds or thousands of times across different tasks, you can train a neural network to say, ‘I’ve seen this and I know how to pick it up.'”
  • Since Nimble’s robots are stationed in a warehouse, human remote operators are still available to help them through any unforeseen obstacles, but over time, “you go from probably 90% autonomous to almost fully autonomous.” “
  • Nimble’s hybrid approach — as well as its subscription model, which charges customers per pick up — make it easy to integrate automation into a warehouse with no upfront cost.
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Bottom-line: Robots won’t completely replace human warehouse workers anytime soon, but an automated e-commerce Santa Claus may not be too far away.


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