Amazon talks about new warehouse bots


In Amazon's advanced technology and robotics labs, team members rigorously test and develop new technologies to help move bags, carts, and packages through company facilities, helping make employees' jobs safer. Some of the innovations being tested are combining advanced technologies with simple solutions for potential safety benefits.

One project, which is still under development, involves using motion capture technology to assess the movement of volunteer staff in a lab setting. These employees perform tasks common to many Amazon facilities, such as moving bags carrying products through automated fulfillment centers.

The motion capture software allows Amazon scientists and researchers to more accurately compare data captured in a lab environment with industry standards rather than with other modeling tools traditionally used by ergonomic experts. He soon joins Amazon warehouse workers Ernie and Bert. These are the names of the new robots that Amazon is testing with the aim of reducing laborious movements.

While the introduction of robots into the workplace often raises questions about whether human jobs are being replaced, Amazon says it allows workers to focus on tasks that need their attention while reducing the potential for injuries. Amazon says it has added more than a million jobs worldwide since it began using robots in its facilities in 2012.

Amazon bots

In May, Amazon announced a goal of reducing recordable accident rates by 50 percent by 2025. It plans to invest more than $300 million in safety projects this year. In a blog post, Amazon described four robots it is testing to move items through its fulfillment centers. And Ernie helps remove items from the automated shelf so employees don't have to.

Amazon said the process doesn't save time, but tests so far have suggested it could make work safer for employees. BERT is one of Amazon's first autonomous mobile robots and is designed to navigate facilities autonomously, even while workers are on the move. And unlike other robots, Burt won't need to stay in a limited space, which means workers can ask him to take things across the facility. There's also Scooter and Kermit, two other robots in development that work via vans.

Amazon said these types of robots could take on the workers' tasks of moving empty packages across facilities. This is so that workers can focus on activities that require thinking skills and reduce physically hard work.

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