Technology

Amazon’s Robotic Replacements

Amazon is no stranger to using a vast array of technology in the workplace. A good deal of business within Amazon warehouses is handled almost exclusively by machines, so much so that the floors in the warehouse have some areas where people are not allowed due to the concentration of working robots. Amazon has introduced a new robot to their workplace, furthuring itself from the need of humans inside the warehouses. 

Amazon’s new robot nicknamed Sparrow has arrived and can reportedly handle almost all items that Amazon keeps in stock. According to Wired, “Sparrow is designed to pick out items piled in shelves or bins so they can be packed into orders for shipping to customers. That’s one of the most difficult tasks in warehouse robotics because there are so many different objects, each with different shapes, textures, and malleability, that can be piled up haphazardly. Sparrow takes on that challenge by using machine learning and cameras to identify objects piled in a bin and plan how to grab one using a custom gripper with several suction tubes. Amazon demonstrated Sparrow for the first time today at the company’s robotics manufacturing facility in Massachusetts.”

Photo by Tara Winstead on Pexels.com

Machine learning is the process in which the onboard computer of these Sparrow robots can adapt to their environment. That means that much like humans, the more these machines complete the tasks they are assigned to perform, the better they get at them. These robots can learn how to recognize objects on shelves and pull them for orders.

Some people are wary of the unveiling of this new robot, fearing that it will take the place of many workers and eliminate jobs within the company. Many are fearing that even if they keep their jobs they will not be able to keep pace with the faster work pace of the robots as they can keep going 24/7 with minimal to no interruption. Amazon does not view things this way, and reports that these new robots will come with the creation of 700 new jobs. 

These robots are complex and require engineers to run them and to keep track of performance. According to Amazon staff, “The design and deployment of robotics and technology across our operations have created over 700 new categories of jobs that now exist within the company—all because of the technology we’ve introduced into our operations. These new types of roles, which employ tens of thousands of people across Amazon, help tangibly demonstrate the positive impact technology and robotics can have for our employees and for our workplace. Supporting our employees and helping them transition and advance their career into roles working with our technology is an important part of how we will continue to innovate.”

Amazon also states that these robots are designed to only take the place of extremely repetitive tasks thus freeing employees for the more complex tasks that the robots might not be able to perform. Whether or not these robots will truly aid employees or if they will eventually replace them will have to be seen as these robots are rolled out onto warehouse floors.

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