The new Amazon warehouse robot has a Roomba-like appearance yet lifts like an Olympian.
A decade after investing it’s initial roughly $1 billion in robotic automation by purchasing robot coordination and fulfillment startup Kiva, the business unveils its first completely autonomous robot.
In its 1,137 fulfillment centers, Amazon today employs almost 200,000 robots, but the machines have never previously collaborated freely with human Amazon employees.
Proteus, though, is unique. Proteus was created for autonomy and to operate around employees, according to an Amazon press release about the new bot.
A video of Proteus in use was also made available by Amazon. The flat robot rolls underneath an Amazon GoCart loaded of merchandise while resembling a huge iRobot Roomba with blinking, friendly monochrome eyes in the front (basically a product cage). The cart is lifted off the ground by the robot after it rolls to what is likely the cart’s center, does a 90-degree turn, and then rolls back to the starting position. Amazon doesn’t specify the robot’s maximum lift capacity, but the amount of dust on the floor indicates that it is lifting a large object.
Additionally, the load is carefully balanced to prevent the cart from tipping or falling over as Proteus travels forward. In the future, it finds a charging station and plugs itself in.
Proteus calmly stops when a human worker crosses its path to show off its cooperative nature. Before moving on their own ways, they appear to exchange brief glances.
The company’s in-house, cutting-edge safety, perception, and navigation technology, according to Amazon, is what makes all of this possible.
Proteus is now restricted to Amazon warehouses with GoCart handling areas, but the retail behemoth aims to spread Proteus across its network of inventory and fulfillment centers.
There will be further new Amazon robots in addition to Proteus. Additionally, the business revealed Cardinal, a single-arm robot with AI and computer vision capabilities that can recognize, lift, and sort bulky parcels (up to 50 lbs).
The bots’ country
Over the past three years, as we battled the restrictions imposed on us all by COVID-19, our reliance on Amazon has grown significantly. Amazon continues to play a major role in our purchasing patterns even as the pandemic subsides.
The business made $470 billion last year, and it is obviously using some of that money to make its distribution centers more automated. These initiatives may not be an accident given that Amazon is battling the rise of unionized workers at some of its warehouses.
While Cardinals will take over for lifting and sorting large boxes and Proteus will take care of moving hundreds of GoCarts filled with the items we all order every day, Amazon’s robots aren’t meant to replace workers, but some degree of that will undoubtedly occur.
Everyone and every robot at Amazon is set to kick into high gear on Amazon Prime Day, that much is certain.