Amazon has announced its “first fully autonomous mobile robot,” which aims to carry large carts to its warehouses. The robot is called Proteus, and Amazon says it can safely navigate around human employees, unlike some of its previous robots, which it kept isolated in a closed area.
Amazon says the Proteus robot has “advanced safety, perception and navigation technology,” and a (strangely silent) video shows the robots flashing a green light in front of them as they spin around. When a human steps into the beam, the robot stops moving, then resumes after the person moves away.
The company has also announced several other robotic systems. One, called the Cardinal, is a robotic arm that can lift and carry packages weighing up to 50 pounds, which Amazon hopes to deploy to warehouses next year. The company says that its computer vision systems let it choose and lift individual packages, even if they are in stacks.
Amazon’s post also shows off technology that could let employees ditch the hand scanners used to log barcodes. Instead, workers stand in front of a camera system that recognizes packages without stopping to scan labels. There aren’t too many details on how it works other than some combination of machine learning and a 120 fps camera system, but its effect is similar to the company’s Just Walk Out technology that lets it build a cashierless store. , We’ve reached out to Amazon to ask what the system is seeing and will let you know if we hear back.
As is often the case with new robotic technology, there are potential labor concerns. Despite recent reports that Amazon may soon be struggling to find workers, the company says it is not looking to build robots, instead hiring people. A Lead in Amazon’s Robotics Division Explained Forbes That “replacing people with machines is just an illusion” that could cause the company to go out of business. However, robots can play a role in setting the pace of work that humans struggle to keep up with safely, something we’ve already seen with automated management systems in the company. The new scanning system in particular seems like it could create unrealistic expectations of how fast workers should move.
For its part, Amazon claims that its all-new robot can actually help improve security. Cardinal works in places where workers would lift and fold otherwise heavy packages, a movement that could lead to injury, and Proteus could “reduce the need for people to manually move heavy objects.” The company is also working on a robot that will deliver containers instead of bending or climbing to deliver goods to workers.
Amazon’s CEO recently promised to systematically address the injury rate at the company’s warehouses, though he downplayed reports that hurt at twice the industry rate, calling the company’s rates “misunderstood.” .