The rise of the robots is no longer sci-fi. It’s happening now, as Amazon has just rolled out its “first fully autonomous mobile robot” for its warehouses this week.
The fifth most-valuable company in the world says its new robot, called Proteus, is equipped with the most advanced technology yet to move around human employees, and lift and move items.
Amazon said Proteus can “augment simple, safe interactions between technology and people.”
The Proteus system is not the only robot Amazon has recently announced. A robotic arm, called Cardinal, has the ability to move packages as heavy as 50 pounds, and the company hopes to install the system on warehouse floors next year.
Amazon says the robots can improve employee safety, a record where the company has been repeatedly criticized. The company says Cardinal “reduces the risk of employee injuries by handling tasks that require lifting and turning of heavy packages or complicated packing in a confined space.” More broadly, Amazon says automation has “transformed our business.”
Amazon has actually employed robots for years. Approximately 15,000 Kiva robots, now dubbed Amazon Robotics, were working in 10 warehouses as far back as 2014.
Will Automation Lead to Job Loss?
As many companies push ahead with automation to cut costs and up productivity, the company reassured workers in 2019, as it is now, that humans and robots can work side-by-side. The company maintains that automation allows “people and technology [to work] safely together,” and that “our vision was never tied to a binary decision of people or technology.”
However, Martin Ford, author of “Rise of the Robots,” a book covering automation, told The New York Times three years ago, “This technology will eventually displace a lot of people in those warehouses. I would not say that, overnight, huge numbers of jobs disappear. Maybe the first indication is they don’t get rid of those people—but the pace of job creation slows down.”
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