Amazon has unveiled a new robot that can handle and distinguish between millions of items in its warehouses.
Named Sparrow, the large mechanical arm has been described by the company as the first system of its kind “which can detect, select, and handle individual products in our inventory”.
It will join existing robotic limbs deployed in Amazon’s warehouses, which help sort packages ahead of delivery.
Sparrow brings with it “a major advancement” in robotics, using computer vision and artificial intelligence to help recognise and appropriately handle millions of products.
Amazon says it will speed up a process that last year saw its employees around the world pick, stow, or pack approximately five billion packages.
“Working with our employees, Sparrow will take on repetitive tasks, enabling our employees to focus their time and energy on other things, while also advancing safety,” it said.
“At the same time, Sparrow will help us drive efficiency by automating a critical part of our fulfillment process, so we can continue to deliver for customers.”
Sparrow’s impact on jobs
Earlier this year, a survey found that one in three businesses planned to invest in automation as a top priority amid staffing shortages.
It followed a study by Arden University, which suggested about a third of jobs in the UK may become redundant by 2030 due to automation and changing workforces.
And in September, the head of the UK’s largest and most advanced robotics centre told Sky News that society needs to prepare for the increased integration of robots.
Amazon claims the design and deployment of robotics and technology like Sparrow has in fact created more than 700 new categories of jobs, employing tens of thousands of people.
Robots like Sparrow will not replace humans, the company insists.
The tech giant has introduced an apprenticeship to introduce staff to robotics and learn new skills, allowing them to pursue technical maintenance roles.
New drone to deliver packages
Amazon has also unveiled a new delivery drone, boasting better range, temperature tolerance and rain resistance.
Due to come into service in the US in 2024, the MK30 also has redesigned propellers that make less noise.
Its existing MK27-2 drone was finally deployed for free deliveries in parts of California in the summer, three years after Amazon said they would be ready to begin “within months”.
Amazon’s first ever drone delivery took place in Cambridge in the UK back in December 2016, but a fully fledged delivery service has been a long time coming.