Amazon has announced its “first fully autonomous mobile robot,” called Proteus that is designed to help move large carts throughout the warehouse.
The company said, the robot is capable of navigating around humans. This robot is reportedly different from those that the companies have used in the past since they needed to be kept in separate caged areas due to their lack of full automation.
In its official blog, Amazon said that its new Proteus robots are capable of “advanced safety, perception, and navigation technology.” It has also uploaded a video on YouTube showcasing how a green light is located in front of the robots while they move around.
The company noted that the robot’s computer vision systems allow users to pick out and lift certain individual packages. This means that the robot is capable of lifting the packages despite them being in a pile. Also, whenever the robot senses a human in the area, it stops moving, and once the human steps away, it continues its route.
“Proteus will initially be deployed in the outbound GoCart handling areas in our fulfillment centres and sort centres,” Amazon said. “Our vision is to automate GoCart handling throughout the network, which will help reduce the need for people to manually move heavy objects through our facility and instead let them focus on more rewarding work,” it added.
The retail major will also be adding Cardinal, a robotic arm capable of lifting weights up to 50 pounds. The Cardinal robot is capable of using advanced AI to select a particular package from a pile, lift it and read the label, before precisely placing it on a GoCart to send the package on the next step of its journey.
Amazon said, the robot reduces the risk of employees injuring themselves accidentally while dealing with the lifting and turning of large and heavy packages in a confined space. The Cardinal is also faster at sorting packages, which contributes to a faster processing time of packages inside the facility before they leave for their respective delivery addresses. As per the blog, Cardinal is expected to be implemented in fulfillment centres next year.
Speculation was rampant that Amazon was replacing people with robots, when in 2012, the company made a big investment to improve productivity in the supply chain by acquiring an US-based robotics company called Kiva Systems for $775 million. In the latest blog, Amazon dismissed this as a ‘fallacy’, revealing that the company currently has over 520,000 robotic drive units, and has added over a million jobs, worldwide. In fact, more than a dozen robotic systems in its facilities – including sort centres and air hubs – are making the workplaces safer and more efficient than ever.
Amazon also revealed a new robotic system that eliminates the need for employees to reach up, bend down or climb ladders when retrieving items. “This is possible thanks to the new containerised storage system that can then locate the pod, grab it and pull it out and give it to an employee. This is possible through what Amazon calls “a highly choreographed dance of robotics and software.”