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Will robots replace humans at Amazon?

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Will robots replace humans at Amazon?

In Amazon’s robotics lab on the outskirts of Boston, Massachusetts, the company’s latest Sparrow robot selects items to be shipped to customers, demonstrating human-hand-like ingenuity.
It’s the e-commerce giant’s most advanced bot yet and could soon do the work of hundreds of thousands of Amazon employees sorting and sending five billion packages a year.
The development of Sparrow, and other robots such as Robin and Cardinal, has fueled fears that Amazon warehouses will one day be run by machines, leading to massive layoffs.
Ty Brady, head of robotics at Amazon, plays down such concerns, which have been expressed by labor unions.
They are not machines that replace people, he told reporters during a tour of the lab, which opened in Westboro in October last year.
They are actually machines and people working together in order to cooperate to do a job.
Equipped with cameras and cylindrical tubes, Sparrow can successfully detect and select an individual item from millions of products of different shapes and sizes.
She gently sucks items that reach a conveyor belt and dispenses them into the appropriate basket in front of her using her robotic arm.
Robin and Cardinal can only forward entire packets, making Sparrow Amazon’s first bot capable of handling individual products.
Given the variety of materials we have in our warehouse, Brady says, the Sparrow is an important achievement.
Working with the robotic trio is a small army of machines, including Proteus, that can carry hundreds of kilograms of items around warehouses.
Brady insists that these innovations will free employees from repetitive tasks to focus on more rewarding and interesting activities while improving safety.
Amazon’s focus is on ensuring that as little time as possible passes between the moment a customer orders an item and the moment it arrives at their door.
– Drones –
This goal prompted some workers to accuse the company of treating them as slaves and depriving them of food and rest.
In statements, Amazon has insisted it provides a safe and positive workplace for employees and, apart from one warehouse in New York, has resisted unionization.
Amazon’s desire to deliver items faster is driving its investment in automation.
By the end of this year, it will begin delivering packages weighing up to two kilograms in less than an hour from warehouses in Lockford, California and College Station, Texas.
The company aims to deliver 500 million packages by drone by the end of the decade, including in major US cities like Boston, Atlanta and Seattle.
According to Joe Quinlivan, vice president of Amazon Robotics, about 75 percent of Amazon’s $5 billion annual orders are handled at some point.
For decades, the prevailing wisdom has been that increased automation destroys the workforce.
Studies now indicate that the transition to the use of bots in e-commerce will not lead to huge job losses in the short to medium term due to the explosive growth in demand.
However, a 2019 study by the University of California, Berkeley Work Center warned that while some technologies can ease tedious warehouse tasks, they can also contribute to increased workload and work pace.
Technological advances may also contribute to finding new ways to monitor workers, the researchers added, and cited Amazon’s MissionRacer video game that pits workers against each other to collect customer orders faster.
Amazon says its innovations have created more than 1 million jobs and 700 new job categories, mainly in highly specialized engineering, but also as technicians and operators.
I really think what we’re going to do in the next five years is going to dwarf anything we’ve done in the last 10 years, Quinlivan says.


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