AI-powered Amazon warehouse robot performs the "repetitive tasks" carried out by human...

midian182

Posts: 8,324   +103
Staff member
What just happened? Amazon has long been a fan of using robots in its many warehouses, the latest of which is designed to aid workers with some of the more repetitive parts of the job: a robotic arm called Sparrow that can pick and handle items before they're packaged.

As reported by CNBC, Amazon unveiled Sparrow on stage at the Delivering the Future conference near Boston, where it showed off several new technologies.

Sparrow is the first robot in the Amazon warehouse system able to detect items of different sizes, pick them up, and handle them without significant human intervention. A video showed the arm selecting and grabbing a board game, a bottle of vitamins, and a set of sheets, placing each item gently into crates. Previous generations of Amazon's robotic arms were only able to pick up around 15 different sizes of boxes, writes TechCrunch.

Sparrow uses computer vision and artificial intelligence to identify items based on, among other things, their size, shape, and bar codes. Amazon said that the robot could identify around 65% of the company's entire product inventory, which covers millions of items. The arm also sports suction cups to pick up and hold the products.

In 2016, Amazon gave a $25,000 top prize to the winner of its second annual robot Picking Challenge to a machine that combines deep learning AI, depth-sensing cameras, and a "two-fingered" gripper and suction cup for selecting and picking items.

In June, Amazon announced Proteus, a warehouse robot that, unlike its previous autonomous machines, can operate without needing to be confined to a warehouse's restricted (I.e., caged off) areas. Its duties include lifting and moving GoCarts—the large, wheeled cages used to hold items–from one area of a facility to another.

Amazon's embracing of automation has once again raised questions about whether the robots will replace human jobs, especially after the company admitted to hiring too many workers during the pandemic and the union drives at some of its warehouses. Amazon insists that Sparrow will perform tedious jobs leaving workers free to perform other tasks. Hopefully, those won't include collecting unemployment benefits.

It's hard not to imagine that Amazon has ambitions to automate its warehouses almost entirely. The tech giant is also pushing harder into drone deliveries, potentially removing the human element from its business even further.

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dangh

Posts: 787   +1,332
Not everybody in the world is highly educated with a rich choice of opportunities to pick from.
This doesn't mean they should work like slaves in Amazon warehouses - I'm sure same argument was made each time technology reduced number of workplaces - people do not cut wheat manually anymore either. Eventually most of the jobs will become automated and we need to come with better solution than 'keep pushing this button to test the washing machine'.
 

stewi0001

Posts: 2,794   +2,587
I hope this comes as a positive thing for the Amazon workers. I prefer do more meaningful tasks typical than simple redundant. In my line of work, no one complains when I improve the automation of a program eliminating the tedious tasks.

I am also of the opinion that if an employer does plan on eliminating someone's job with automation that they should provide the option to the employee(s) for new education and/or transfers. I know that is ideal thinking though.
 

yRaz

Posts: 4,815   +6,000
Not everybody in the world is highly educated with a rich choice of opportunities to pick from.
I could literally start you with a 100k a year job tomorrow with no skills, 90% of the job is passing a drug test and showing up.

There are good jobs out there but for some reason, people would rather work at Amazon than building skyscrapers and bridges. The two biggest things I hear for why people don't want to work with us is "I can't do that because I smoke pot" and "yeah, but I don't want to work outside"

I hate to say this, but these people CHOOSE this life whether they know it or not and I don't feel bad for them. My company will have you working and pay for your schooling while you're working. Carpenters, masons, iorn workers, any of them. They are all highly educated and highly skilled but you can't learn that stuff in a class room.

They are in demand and highly needed. You want to work, you can make 100k tomorrow with great benefits and pension.

It's the dumbest thing in the world when I hear people won't do it because they don't want to give up smoking pot or work outside.

I work 70 and 80 hour weeks BECAUSE we are so short staffed and people don't want to work. I'd love to have a 40 hour week but people would rather make $20/hr at Amazon smoking pot and then complain about how robots are taking their job
 

yannus

Posts: 110   +96
Amazon, after pushing all competition into bankrupcy is going to get rid of its employees. I guess that this is the meaning of progress.
 

Aranarth

Posts: 144   +144
I could literally start you with a 100k a year job tomorrow with no skills, 90% of the job is passing a drug test and showing up.

There are good jobs out there but for some reason, people would rather work at Amazon than building skyscrapers and bridges. The two biggest things I hear for why people don't want to work with us is "I can't do that because I smoke pot" and "yeah, but I don't want to work outside"

I hate to say this, but these people CHOOSE this life whether they know it or not and I don't feel bad for them. My company will have you working and pay for your schooling while you're working. Carpenters, masons, iorn workers, any of them. They are all highly educated and highly skilled but you can't learn that stuff in a class room.

They are in demand and highly needed. You want to work, you can make 100k tomorrow with great benefits and pension.

It's the dumbest thing in the world when I hear people won't do it because they don't want to give up smoking pot or work outside.

I work 70 and 80 hour weeks BECAUSE we are so short staffed and people don't want to work. I'd love to have a 40 hour week but people would rather make $20/hr at Amazon smoking pot and then complain about how robots are taking their job
Doing what exactly?
 

yRaz

Posts: 4,815   +6,000
Doing what exactly?
So I mainly work on skyscrapers now setting up and pouring concrete floors. I'm a Mason part of the OPCMIA Local 526 in Pittsburgh. While my job title is "cement finisher" I do far more than that. If you don't want to work with concrete you can look at the Carpenters or iron workers. And there is also simply the "labors" who do a bit of everything with everyone.

There is so much opportunity out there that it's actually overwhelming so I'd say just call a local union hall and start asking questions about an apprenticeship. There is usually a 4 year apprenticeship but we are so short staffed we've been starting people as a "second year" and you only have to do a 2 year apprenticeship.
 
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Theinsanegamer

Posts: 3,772   +6,597
This doesn't mean they should work like slaves in Amazon warehouses - I'm sure same argument was made each time technology reduced number of workplaces - people do not cut wheat manually anymore either. Eventually most of the jobs will become automated and we need to come with better solution than 'keep pushing this button to test the washing machine'.
The problem with your analogy is that when wheat was no longer cut by hand, there were new job sectors - transportation, factory work, ece for them to transfer into.

With the loss of factory jobs many of the former middle class had nowhere to go. Truck driving has absorbed the more adaptable, but the less adaptable were left with nothing, these are the ones working warehouses or other manual labor with no skills. These people have nowhere to go and you cant throw them all on the streets.

Amazon's poor working conditions are condemnable, but that doesnt justify putting people out of a job either.
 

kira setsu

Posts: 407   +386
Cant win when it comes to a subject on amazon.

its bad for people to do repetitive dull jobs, then when they make a robot to do em instead you pipe up and pretty much say thats evil too.

which is it?
 

brucek

Posts: 1,294   +1,921
Many advanced economies face upcoming declining populations and/or decreasing ratios of employed to retired age workers. We're going to need these and many other new types of robots.

Also I don't think people will ever run out of jobs they want done. As soon we make something easy, we make something else the new thing everyone needs.
 

mbk34

Posts: 389   +289
I could literally start you with a 100k a year job tomorrow with no skills, 90% of the job is passing a drug test and showing up.
It's extremely kind of you to offer but I was just trying to stick up for the warehouse workers. I'm actually one of the (very) lucky ones with a fairly decent education who spends his time working remotely while drifting between London, the Greek islands and the French Alps. It's a hard life but someone has to do it ;)
 

NeoMorpheus

Posts: 1,393   +2,960
Sadly, we advance via technology and this will simply keep repeating itself.

Now, the subject of universal income is something else that its becoming more and more relevant.
 

yRaz

Posts: 4,815   +6,000
It's extremely kind of you to offer but I was just trying to stick up for the warehouse workers. I'm actually one of the (very) lucky ones with a fairly decent education who spends his time working remotely while drifting between London, the Greek islands and the French Alps. It's a hard life but someone has to do it ;)
Well I am happy you are fortunate enough to be able to live like that. Here In freedom land it is astronomically frustrating when we're literally giving jobs away and people find excuses not to take them. Then the first thing people say about robots replacing workers is "OMG, but what about the jobs?!"
 
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kiwigraeme

Posts: 1,312   +959
It's extremely kind of you to offer but I was just trying to stick up for the warehouse workers. I'm actually one of the (very) lucky ones with a fairly decent education who spends his time working remotely while drifting between London, the Greek islands and the French Alps. It's a hard life but someone has to do it ;)

As a kiwi who went to the Greek Islands a few times - first in the late 80s - I was amazed how so few people winter in the islands - out of season accommodation was stunningly cheap - sure expect painters, writers etc - but healthy lifestyle - walking over the hills - or stroll up and down every day to swim ( not that cold ) if staying higher up for views - simple food - not highly processed .
Maybe changed a lot in last 15 years due to migrants , refugees - don't know.
Why suffer complete Nordic winter in dark ?
 

psycros

Posts: 4,462   +6,650
Sadly, we advance via technology and this will simply keep repeating itself.

Now, the subject of universal income is something else that its becoming more and more relevant.

No, it isn't. Don't waste time with fantasy economics - you're better than that.

Many advanced economies face upcoming declining populations and/or decreasing ratios of employed to retired age workers. We're going to need these and many other new types of robots.

Also I don't think people will ever run out of jobs they want done. As soon we make something easy, we make something else the new thing everyone needs.

We have PLENTY of people being born to replace the old retirees. Unfortunately most of them grew up on welfare and don't have any concept of how important it is to earn your own way in life. The lowest 20% of the economic ladder is producing three times more kids than the middle class that does most of the work and pays over half of the taxes. As to the creating new jobs argument..*gestures at literally everything*..

Where? For most of the country the only growth sectors are in gambling and home delivery. The #1 goal of every corporation is to reduce payroll. #2 is to be a marketing platform first and everything else second.
 

dangh

Posts: 787   +1,332
The problem with your analogy is that when wheat was no longer cut by hand, there were new job sectors - transportation, factory work, ece for them to transfer into.

With the loss of factory jobs many of the former middle class had nowhere to go. Truck driving has absorbed the more adaptable, but the less adaptable were left with nothing, these are the ones working warehouses or other manual labor with no skills. These people have nowhere to go and you cant throw them all on the streets.

Amazon's poor working conditions are condemnable, but that doesnt justify putting people out of a job either.
Each time new technology were coming people were loosing job and didn't see any other option, yet such option was eventually found.
And even, if not, there is no reason for a company to use inefficient, limited solutions for the issue. It is a pure loss, and the work is simply bad. It would be better to use a guaranteed income scheme, instead of enforcing anyone to have losses due to incorrect use of human force.
Eventually, 99% of jobs will be automated, we need to look for a proper solution to that, not making people work of robots. It makes no sense at all.
 

Aranarth

Posts: 144   +144
This doesn't mean they should work like slaves in Amazon warehouses - I'm sure same argument was made each time technology reduced number of workplaces - people do not cut wheat manually anymore either. Eventually most of the jobs will become automated and we need to come with better solution than 'keep pushing this button to test the washing machine'.

That argument HAS been every time, and it has always been proven false.
Automation is always a good thing, though it does show that inexpensive education is important.

Does not have to be free, but does need to cost less than 25% of your typical take home pay.

(If you're making 30,000 a year and taxes take a 1/3 then you have 20K and general higher education should cost $5k/yr on average. Education this low would mean that you could have a part-time job, live at home, and get a degree with zero debt remaining. and YES education used to be that cheap!)
 

dangh

Posts: 787   +1,332
That argument HAS been every time, and it has always been proven false.
Automation is always a good thing, though it does show that inexpensive education is important.

Does not have to be free, but does need to cost less than 25% of your typical take home pay.

(If you're making 30,000 a year and taxes take a 1/3 then you have 20K and general higher education should cost $5k/yr on average. Education this low would mean that you could have a part-time job, live at home, and get a degree with zero debt remaining. and YES education used to be that cheap!)
Agree. But I live in Ireland, we have no crazy education costs here and I still don't understand why it is so important for US senators to keep population stupid.
 

Aranarth

Posts: 144   +144
Agree. But I live in Ireland, we have no crazy education costs here and I still don't understand why it is so important for US senators to keep population stupid.
I was born in the UK, I don't get it either. I do believe it contributes to the red/blue split we see.
Because I have a view from outside the fishbowl, I'm mostly libertarian...