Amazon has unveiled its first fully autonomous mobile robot designed to assist in its distribution centers, although it’s not clear if it will be ready in time for the company’s fast-approaching and super-busy Prime Day shopping event.
The new robot, called Proteus, is a low-slung, wheel-based machine that spins on wheels. At first glance, and even secondly, it looks very much like a robot vacuum cleaner, but this device performs transport tasks instead of cleaning tasks. And like a robotic vacuum cleaner, Proteus uses sensors to help it navigate and avoid obstacles, including mobile ones like humans.
As the video shows, Amazon’s new robot works by driving under a cart and then lifting it to lift it off the ground. Proteus is then able to transport the cart to a designated destination.
The e-commerce giant has invested heavily in robotics technology since it picked up robotics specialist Kiva in 2012. But most of the warehouse robots it produced — including Ernie and Bert — had to work away from people for safety reasons.
However, Proteus is a lot more advanced, with its cutting edge technology allowing it to work alongside humans without fear of a calamity.
Amazons said the robot can operate “in a way that increases the simple, safe interaction between technology and people, opening up a wider range of potential uses to help our employees, such as lifting and moving GoCarts, the non-automated transports.” on wheels.” used to move packages through our facilities.” The company has not said when Proteus will start operating, or if it has already started.
Another new robot, Cardinal, is a stationary device that uses artificial intelligence and computer vision to quickly sort packages weighing up to 50 pounds. Designed to reduce the risk of workers’ injuries by performing tasks that require lifting and turning heavy objects in a confined space, Cardinal is expected to be deployed in Amazon’s warehouses next year.
Amazon is well aware that some observers believe the company wants to replace its warehouse workers entirely with robots. However, it insists this is not the case, explaining that 10 years after its first major step toward robotics, the company has added more than a million jobs worldwide and deployed more than half a million robot drives. It also believes that its robotic technology allows its human employees to focus on work that is considered more rewarding.
“From the early days of the Kiva acquisition, our vision was never tied to a binary decision of people or technology,” Amazon said. “Instead, it was about people and technology working together securely and harmoniously to deliver for our customers. That vision remains today.”
With recent reports suggesting Amazon warehouse workers are twice as likely to be seriously injured as competing companies, Amazon is adamant that deploying more robots for certain tasks will help reduce that number.