Amazon has unveiled its first fully autonomous mobile robot designed to help out in its distribution centers, though it’s unclear if it will be ready in time for the shopping event. prime-day from the company, which is fast approaching and super busy.
The new robot, called Proteus, is a low-rise, wheel-based machine that moves on wheels. At first glance, and even second, it looks a lot like a robot vacuum cleaner, but this device performs transport tasks instead of cleaning tasks. And just like a robot vacuum, Proteus uses sensors to help it navigate and avoid obstacles, including mobile ones like humans.
As the video shows, Amazon’s new robot works by driving under a car and then lifting it up to lift it off the ground. Proteus can then transport the chariot to a designated destination.
The e-commerce giant has invested heavily in robotics technology since it acquired robotics specialist Kiva in 2012. But most of the warehouse robots it has produced, including Ernie and Bert, have had to work far from people for reasons of security.
Proteus is far more advanced, however, with his cutting-edge technology allowing him to work alongside humans without fear of causing calamity.
amazon said that the robot can operate “in a way that increases simple and safe interaction between technology and people, opening up a wider range of possible uses to help our employees, such as lifting and moving GoCarts, non-automated transports with wheels used to move packages through our facilities.” The company hasn’t said when Proteus will start working, or if it has already started.
Another new robot, Cardinal, is a stationary device that uses artificial intelligence and computer vision to quickly sort packages weighing up to 50 pounds. Designed to reduce the risk of employee injury when handling tasks that require heavy lifting and twisting in a confined space, Cardinal is expected to roll out to Amazon warehouses next year.
Amazon is well aware that some observers believe the company is interested in completely replacing its warehouse-based human staff with robots. However, he insists this is not the case, explaining that 10 years after its first big move into robotics technology, the company has added more than a million jobs worldwide while deploying more than half a million units of robotic drive. It also believes that its robotic technology allows its human staff to focus on work considered most rewarding.
“From the early days of the Kiva acquisition, our vision was never tied to a binary decision of people or technology,” Amazon said. “Instead, it was about people and technology working together securely and harmoniously to deliver to our customers. That vision remains today.”
With recent reports suggesting Amazon warehouse workers are suffering serious injuries at twice the rate of rival companies, Amazon insists that deploying more robots for particular tasks will help reduce those numbers.