Humanoid robots that can pick up packages with robotic arms are working alongside human workers at an Amazon warehouse in the US, the retail giant announced.
The humanoid robot called Digit is being tested in a warehouse in Texas. He has arms and legs and can grab and handle packages like a human worker.
Amazon currently has 750,000 robots working in facilities around the world, but the shift to humanoid robots is new – sparking fears for the future of the company’s human workers.
The company has denied that it plans to move to “robot-only” warehouses.
The two-legged robot is currently used to move empty transport boxes in the warehouse: It is 1.70 meters tall, weighs 65 kilograms – and can pick up and carry objects weighing up to 15 kilograms.
The move sparked fears for the future of Amazon’s 1.5 million human workers.
The Digit robot is 1.70 meters tall (Amazon)
Amazon Robotics chief technologist Tye Brady said testing of Digit, Agility’s bipedal robot, was in a “very, very early stage.”
Tye Brady, Amazon Robotics’ chief technologist, said: “We’re putting a lot of emphasis on understanding it better and seeing if it’s a good fit for our processes.”
Agility Robotics’ Digit can take on many human tasks “that are too monotonous, physically demanding or dangerous for the people it works with,” according to the company.
It is part of a wave of humanoid robots from companies ranging from start-ups to major tech conglomerates, including Elon Musk’s Tesla, which is developing a humanoid robot called Optimus.
Musk said he believes the robots could one day be more important than the company’s cars.
Goldman Sachs predicted that the market for humanoid robots could reach $150 billion per year worldwide within 15 years – and that humanoid robots will be usable in factories between 2025 and 2028 and in other jobs between 2030 and 2035.
Sequoia Robotic System Can Speed Up Deliveries by 25%, Company Says (Amazon)
Elon Musk’s Optimus robot can also take on any human task (Tesla)
Amazon is investing heavily in robotics, announcing a $1 billion “Industrial Innovation” fund last year.
Other companies like Sanctuary AI believe robots will be able to do every human job within 10 years – the Phoenix robot has already demonstrated packing items in stores.
Amazon has claimed that the bipedal robots are “not taking over human jobs” and argued that the technology can help by “empowering employees to better deliver for our customers.”
Amazon claims its robotic systems have created “hundreds of thousands of new jobs” across its operations.
Amazon said: “This includes 700 categories of new job types in skilled roles that did not previously exist within the company,” the company said.
According to the tech giant, more than 750,000 robots now work “collaboratively” with its human employees and are often used to take on “very repetitive tasks.”
750,000 robots work at Amazon (Amazon)
Amazon wrote in a blog post: “We believe there is a great opportunity to scale a mobile manipulator solution like Digit that can work with employees.”
“Our first use of this technology will be to help employees with container recycling, a very repetitive process that involves picking up and moving empty containers after all inventory has been removed from them.”
At a separate media event, Amazon Robotics chief technologist Tye Brady told reporters that he believes human workers are irreplaceable.
He said there was no possibility that Amazon could have fully automated warehouses in the future.
Brady said, “There’s no part of me that believes this would ever become a reality.”
“People play such a central role in the fulfillment process; the ability to think at a higher level, the ability to diagnose problems.’
At the event, Brady announced the deployment of a new robotic system called Sequoia in one of its Houston warehouses that can speed up order fulfillment by 25%.
Brady said, “Collaborative robotics involves people. ‘How can we ensure that people are the stars, the spotlight, the center of the show when it comes to the tasks we need to do?’
“If we do our jobs really, really well, our robotic systems will just fade into the background and become ubiquitous.” “In your kitchen, you don’t talk too much about your dishwasher.”