Amazon has presented its re:MARS conference in Las Vegas over the last few days, discussing new tech advances in robotics, AI and other topics. For example, actor Robert Downey Jr. announced a project to clean up the environment using robots which he thinks could largely do the job within ten years or so.
Jeff Bezos — who became a billionaire by skillfully adding robots to his online Amazon store — opined at re:MARS that advanced robotic hands will be achieved in a decade. That techno advance would be a serious game-changer as far as replacing humans in the workplace, because manual dexterity has been much harder to create than basic functional intelligence of the sort that is often used in business machines now.
For example, Amazon warehouses are run by a big computer brain that keeps track of stock, individual orders and where items are located on various racks of merchandise. But the little orange robots deliver the customer orders to workers to pack them up for shipment. When robot hands reach human-like dexterity, then Bezos can get his desired totally automated warehouses.
Below, Amazon’s Kiva warehouse robots are wired in to a computer system that tracks customer orders as well as where everything is located on the floor.
The basic Kiva warehouse robot will be getting an assist from a new smart machine called Pegasus that moves individual parcels from packers to sorting chutes. Note how the robot is characterized as a helper to workers rather than a replacement for them in the company video below:
Finally, here’s a report about Bezos’ plan for dexterous robot hands to come in the automated future:
Amazon’s Bezos says robotic hands will be ready for commercial use in next 10 years, Reuters, June 6, 2019
LAS VEGAS (Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc Chief Executive Jeff Bezos said on Thursday he expects there will be commercial robots in the next 10 years that can grasp items as reliably as humans, a development that could lead to the automation of warehouse jobs around the world.
The remark, made on stage at Amazon’s “re:MARS” conference in Las Vegas, underscored how companies and university researchers are rapidly developing technology to perform human tasks, whether for elder care in the home or for the picking and stowing of goods in retail warehouses.
“I think grasping is going to be a solved problem in the next 10 years,” he said. “It’s turned out to be an incredibly difficult problem, probably in part because we’re starting to solve it with machine vision, so (that means) machine vision did have to come first.”
Bezos did not discuss any Amazon deployments of the technology, which it has tested from the Boston-area startup Soft Robotics, for instance, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters previously here
The company has said it views automation as a way to help workers.
Still, Amazon is known for its drive to mechanize as many parts of its business as possible, whether pricing goods or transporting items in its warehouses. It employs hundreds of thousands of people, many of whose primary task is grasping, scanning and placing customer orders.
A variety of companies other than Amazon have also rolled out robotic hands for limited warehouse pilots. (Continues)