AMAZON created an e-commerce empire by automating many tasks required to transport goods and pack orders within its warehouses. But, of course, there’s still plenty of work for human beings in these massive warehouses because certain tasks are too complicated for machines to perform reliably. Still, the new robot named Sparrow could change the balance Amazon can strike between humans and machines.
The manufacturer designed Sparrow to pull out objects piled up on bins or shelves so that they can be put in orders that can be delivered to customers. This is among the most challenging tasks of warehouse robotics because there are myriad objects, each with unique forms, texture, colors, and flexibility, which can be scattered around randomly. However, Sparrow is up to the problem with machine learning, cameras detecting objects stacked in bins and figuring out how to grasp them using an individual gripper with various suction tubes. Amazon presented Sparrow at first on Wednesday at its manufacturing plant for robotics in Massachusetts.
Amazon is currently conducting tests with Sparrow at its facility in Texas, where Sparrow is sorting items for customer orders. The company claims Sparrow can manage 65 percent of greater than 100 million of the items that are in its inventory. Tye Brady, the chief technologist at Amazon Robotics, says that capability is one of the most impressive things about Sparrow. “No one has the inventory that Amazon has,” Brady claims. In addition, sparrows can hold socks, DVDs, and other stuffies. However, he still needs help with various packaging that needs to be fixed or easier to understand.
The increasing automation of warehouses naturally brings thoughts of robots taking over human workers. The connection between human and robotic workers at work was more complicated in the past. For example, Amazon has increased its employees even as it has introduced more automation, and its business continues to expand. Amazon is reportedly sensitive to the idea that robots may harm humans. When asked about the possibility of replacing workers, Brady said the role of robots is often misunderstood. “I don’t view it as replacing people,” Brady stated. “It’s humans and machines working together–not humans versus machines–and if I can allow people to focus on higher-level tasks, that’s the win.”
Industrial robots are increasing steadily. In October, The International Federation for Robotics announced that companies worldwide had invested in 517,385 new robots by 2021, an increase of 31 percent year-over-year and a new record for the sector.
During its presentation today, Amazon also demonstrated a new delivery drone named MK30, capable of carrying loads up to 5 pounds. Amazon has tested drone deliveries in Lockeford, California, and College Station, Texas, and claims that the more efficient drone will begin service in 2024.