The new Proteus robot can coexist peacefully with humans to move carts, while the Cardinal articulated arm makes it easy to handle heavy packs.
Amazon is increasingly trying to automate certain tasks in its warehouses using robots. But this does not go smoothly, because their coexistence with humans is sometimes difficult, and even dangerous. However, a new model, named Proteus, changes the situation. This robot is completely autonomous and, above all, does not need to be confined to a specific area of the warehouse, separate from humans. This is what it looks like:
Similar to the large vacuum robot, the Proteus can carry vehicles of this type rollsContains carton. And if an employee crosses his path, he automatically stops and waits for the person to move away. Amazon insists on using navigation and perception technologies to ensure the best possible security. This is why Proteus will be deployed in the outside handling areas of the trolleys, in order to limit the movement of heavy objects by the staff.
Articulated arm drugged with artificial intelligence
This is also the reason why Amazon has also implemented a hinged arm with suction cups called the Cardinal.
Using vision and artificial intelligence techniques, Cardinal can quickly get a chest from a pile, read its label, and put it in the appropriate cart. Again, its use reduces the risks for employees who handle heavy objects. Its presence is limited to a narrow space, due to its lifting and turning movements. A prototype of the robot is currently being tested to handle packages weighing up to 22 kilograms. Amazon hopes to be able to roll it out to its hubs next year.
Artificial intelligence is also applied to make it easier to identify packets.
Thanks to employee suggestions, Amazon designed a process that no longer required the use of a portable scanner to read a packet’s barcode, something that would have to be done manually in most cases. The 120 fps camera system will automatically take care of the identification stage when an employee, for example, takes the package out of the cart to put it in a locker.
Finally, Amazon is introducing a new automated system to deliver products to employees, without the need to carry them high or close to the ground, or even climb a ladder.
Here again, robots come to the rescue, with robotic arms that take packages and deposit them in small carts, also robotic, for employees. Thus, the process is faster (a person does not waste time looking for products in various boxes), but also much safer by eliminating dangerous manipulations.
All of these technologies demonstrate the progress Amazon has made over the past decade, which began the effort in 2012 with the purchase of robotics company Kiva. Currently, there are 520,000 robotic units in operation at various centers, but Amazon insists the robots are there to help humans, not replace them. Let’s hope that in the future these developments will not lead to fully automated warehouses, without any employees.