Amazon: Humanoid Robots Are “Freeing Employees Up”

Amazon: Humanoid Robots Are “Freeing Employees Up"
This is, believe it or not, the best picture yet of Amazon's latest robot.

Amazon’s U.S. warehouses are trialing humanoid robots as the megacorp continues to further automate its operations.

Amazon said the move is about “taking on highly repetitive tasks and freeing employees up to better deliver for our customers.”

Humanoid robots

Robots in Amazon’s U.S. factories will free up humans for other tasks, according to the company. This is according to a statement released by Amazon on Wednesday.

The latest addition to Amazon’s army of robot workers is Digit, a bi-pedal robot that can move and handle objects in a similar fashion to a human worker. Digit was created by Agility Robotics, a company Amazon invested in as part of the Amazon Industrial Innovation Fund.

“Digit can move, grasp, and handle items in spaces and corners of warehouses in novel ways,” said Amazon.

“Its size and shape are well suited for buildings that are designed for humans, and we believe that there is a big opportunity to scale a mobile manipulator solution, such as Digit, which can work collaboratively with employees.”

Digit will help employees with “tote recycling,” which Amazon describes as “a highly repetitive process.”

Other robots too

Digit is just one of a number of new robotic helpers Amazon is testing out. Not all of the robots come in humanoid form, however.

The company now has 750,000 robotic machines “working collaboratively” with human employees.

While human-looking machines are stealing the show, other machines are no less impressive.

Another machine called Sequoia is helping the company identify and store inventory up to 75% faster than was previously possible. The robot also helps the company process order fulfillment 25% faster, integrating multiple robotic systems, including the aforementioned Digit and Sparrow.

Unions not impressed

Tech fans may geek out over Amazon’s latest technological marvel, but Unions are less forgiving of the firm and its drive towards mechanization.

As the UK trade Union GMB pithily put it, Amazon has “been treating their workers like robots for years.”

Trade Union organizer Stuart Richards said, “”Amazon’s automation is [creating a] head-first race to job losses. We’ve already seen hundreds of jobs disappear in fulfillment centres.”

Amazon directly disputes that claim. Tye Brady, the company’s chief technologist, told reporters that their people were “irreplaceable” at a media event in Seattle.

Asked about the possibility of robots replacing their human staff, Brady said, “There’s not any part of me that thinks that would ever be a reality. People are so central to the fulfillment process—the ability to think at a higher level, the ability to diagnose problems.”

Image credits: Shutterstock, CC images, Midjourney, Unsplash.