Amazon’s latest warehouse robot is cute, but it’s definitely not going to quell workers’ fears of being replaced – DIGIWIZ CENTRAL

Amazon’s latest warehouse robot is cute, but it’s definitely not going to quell workers’ fears of being replaced

Amazon introduced a new bipedal robot called Digit to its warehouses.

Amazon

Amazon is testing a new robot in its warehouses.
Digit is a humanoid bipedal robot from Agility Robotics that can work alongside employees.
Amazon says Digit is designed to “work collaboratively” with employees, not replace them.

Amazon recently began testing a new robot in its warehouse operations — meet Digit, a humanoid bipedal robot with a turquoise torso and smiley eyes.

Designed by Agility Robotics, which Amazon has invested in as part of its Industrial Innovation Fund, Digit is only the latest of a string of warehouse robots the company has introduced over the last several years. However, most of the other warehouse robots have been cart-shaped or robotic arms, not humanoid like Digit.

Of course, its human-like appearance probably isn’t going to quell the fears of any workers worried they’ll eventually be replaced, but Amazon is saying Digit is designed to “work collaboratively” with employees, not replace them.

Insider reached out to Amazon for any additional comment.

Digit is designed to operate alongside human employees.

Amazon

Amazon has been building up its robot fleet for years. It had 45,000 robots across 20 fulfillment centers back in 2017, Insider previously reported. In June 2021, the company introduced a fleet of four robots named after characters from “Sesame Street” and “The Muppets,” — Bert, Ernie, Scooter, and Kermit.

A year later, Amazon introduced Proteus, a fully autonomous warehouse robot which it said would operate alongside human employees, unlike its regular robots that only operate in a caged area away from human workers. In November 2022, Amazon introduced Sparrow, a picking robot arm with a suction cup hand that’s meant for handling individual items in the warehouse inventory.

Unlike the company’s other warehouse robots, Amazon says Digit is better designed to operate in spaces designed for humans. 

“Digit can move, grasp, and handle items in spaces and corners of warehouses in novel ways.” Amazon said in an announcement on its website. “Our initial use for this technology will be to help employees with tote recycling, a highly repetitive process of picking up and moving empty totes once inventory has been completely picked out of them.”

The new robot is designed by Agility Robotics.

Amazon

Amazon has often promoted its robots as a way to improve employee safety and experience.

“We are passionate about technology that makes the work experience of our employees safer, easier, and less repetitive,” Amazon says on its website. “Doing so gives our employees the time and opportunity to take a step back, look at how orders are moving though our sites, and find new ways to delight and serve our customers.”

But as the company builds out its fleet of robots, it’s impossible to ignore the elephant in the room: Is the company doing so to eventually reduce its reliance on a human workforce?

Workers were already worried when the Sparrow arm robot was rolled out last year — one warehouse worker told Insider that it “will take my job” after reading Amazon’s description of the robot. In community forums, warehouse workers discussed the possibility that Sparrow might result in empty warehouses, with only small teams of human employees to repair the robots. Amazon has pushed back on these concerns, saying that its robots will only create new categories of jobs within the company.

And it’s still not clear whether robots will truly improve worker safety. One whistleblower report in 2020 from investigative journalism site Reveal included leaked internal data that showed that Amazon’s robotic warehouses had higher injury rates than warehouses that don’t use robots — Amazon strongly refuted the report at the time, saying that the reporter was “misinterpreting data.”

Read the original article on Business Insider
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