Amazon Has New Robots Joining Its Warehouse Workforce

While Amazon’s Astro started hauling drinks from room to room in some homes this year, two new working robots will start hauling and sorting boxes at the company’s warehouses in 2023. On Wednesday, Amazon gave a first look at Proteus and Cardinal, which the company says could reduce the risk of injury to warehouse’ employees.

Proteus, for example, is Amazon’s “first fully autonomous mobile robot” and looks like a large, lime-green Roomba, while Cardinal is stationary and is basically a long arm with suction cups instead of hands. Amazon wants the robots to reduce the amount of heavy lifting and other intense physical labor that employees do.

In a blog post, the company pointed out its 10-year record of robot technology and its use in warehouse facilities. Unlike previous automated designs that raised safety concerns, Amazon said, Proteus has been specifically programmed to move around in the same physical spaces as humans. Amazon said that the robot is independent and automatically does its work without interfering with employees. Proteus is designed to raise and haul the wheeled bins that are used to move packages around the warehouse. 

Using a combination of computer vision and artificial intelligence, Cardinal assists with sorting. It can pluck one package at a time from a lineup, read its label and put it on the correct wheeled bin to continue with the shipping process. Amazon said the robot will reduce the risk of injury to employees who would normally have to twist or turn their bodies to move heavy packages. Cardinal is currently being tested to lift parcels that weight up to 50 pounds. Amazon expects to start using the robots in its facilities by next year.

The company hoped to quash fears about a Skynet-like robot uprising where humans are no longer part of the workforce. Though Amazon wants to decrease manual labor in areas like sorting and scanning packages, the company said it aims to have employees and robots work together while mitigating safety hazards and injuries from activities like climbing ladders and pulling large packages. 

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