Amazon has introduced its first fully automated, mobile warehouse robot.
Called the Proteus, the machine is only a few inches tall and looks a bit like those robot vacuums you can buy off the shelf.
It’s designed to move around the US retail giant’s warehouses on its own while carrying carts full of packages.
Amazon announced the robot Tuesday in a blog post that looked back on the past 10 years since it bought robot company Kiva.
Previous automated robots built by the company had to be confined to special pens to prevent them from colliding with staff.
Proteus, on the other hand, uses “advanced security, perception and navigation technology” to evade its human counterparts, Amazon said.
“Proteus is our first fully autonomous mobile robot,” the company wrote.
“In the past, it was difficult to safely integrate robotics in the same physical space as humans.
“We believe Proteus will change that while remaining smart, secure, and collaborative.”
A video released by Amazon shows Proteus pushing carts full of packages through a warehouse.
When approaching a person, the device will stop moving and wait for the employee to pass before continuing its journey.
Amazon said the robot was built to do its job automatically and move around employees.
Unlike his other robots, this means Proteus doesn’t need to be confined to restricted areas.
The invention is used in the company’s processing centers and sorting centers.
Amazon said it will work with existing employees rather than replace them.
“Our vision is to automate GoCart handling across the network, which will help reduce the need for employees to manually move heavy items around our facility, and instead focus on more rewarding work,” the company said.
Amazon began building robots in 2012 with the acquisition of Massachusetts-based Kia Systems, now called Amazon Robotics.
The retail giant is said to be operating an army of more than 200,000 robots to help it fulfill its daily tidal wave of orders.
While Amazon says its robots were built to help existing workers, experts say the clock is ticking for the company’s warehouse workers.
The technology will have a seismic impact on the warehousing industry, which employs over a million Americans.
Reuters reported in 2019 that the company eventually plans to use automated robots to reduce its workforce and cut costs.
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