It appears more robots will be joining Amazon fulfillment centers. TechCrunch reported today that Amazon acquired robotics firm Canvas Technology. You can see its robots in action in a TechCrunch video from 2017 showing an autonomous cart that can safely navigate the ever-changing environment of warehouse floors.
An Amazon spokesperson told TechCrunch today, “We are inspired by Canvas Technology’s innovations, and share a common vision for a future where people work alongside robotics to further improve safety and the workplace experience.”
As if anticipating possible concerns about its use of robotics, Amazon published a video this month showing their use in its fulfillment centers. A worker states in the video that one type of robot led to 300,000 new fulltime jobs – and the video features lots and lots of warehouse workers who seem absolutely thrilled about their robot companions.
“When Gregory Moss walks into work at a California-based fulfillment center and approaches his work station for the day, 15 robots are by his side, delivering bins of items for him to sort, stow, or count,” Amazon states in the accompanying blog post, which quotes Tye Brady, Amazon robotics chief technologist:
“Amazon currently enlists the help of more than 100,000 robots, which operate using the AWS cloud, to fulfill customer orders. These robots complement human capability to “help make us smarter. Our three principles – lower prices, wider selection, and enhanced customer experience – will not scale up by manual labor only. They keep accelerating and growing only if we augment and supplement human intelligence with machine intelligence.”
Robots could mean lower costs for Amazon, which could pass those savings along to sellers who use its FBA fulfillment service. But it could also mean Amazon might be able to lower prices on its own goods, making it more difficult for third-party sellers to compete with it on price.
Last month, Amazon also published a post featuring its next generation robots and the engineers behind their design. These posts and videos seem like an effort to “humanize” the robots, or at least try to ease people’s concerns about their use.
The warehouse floor isn’t the only place getting robot helpers – Walmart is using robots in its stores. Yahoo reported today that “Walmart is among the leaders in using AI and robots in stores and fulfillment centers” and wrote, “the goal is not to replace human workers, but to free them up to do other tasks – such as better serving customers.”