According to Wired, buying your holiday gifts through online retailers like Amazon is putting more robotics to work.
“Robots shuttle cabinets of goods around warehouses. Other robots scan barcodes to do inventory. And, increasingly, robotic arms do what once only humans could: Sort through a vast array of oddly-shaped objects to compile large orders, all to be shipped to you,” the article says.
While these robots are working more, they are also evolving. For example, Wired says that the new robots in Amazon’s fulfillment centers are more advanced, nuanced and collaborative with their human co-workers.
However, human workers don’t have to worry about robots taking over their jobs; robots still don’t have the physical capability to do some tasks, such as moving items from bins into boxes – something the human hand can do. Robots also don’t have the ability to listen and vocalize as they work.
What decision makers need to know:
Even though robots aren’t expected to take over human work completely, businesses are starting to consider how robotics can fit into their workflows. For example, Wired reports that a startup called Kindred is teaching warehouse robots two techniques: one, called imitation learning, involves engineers steering the robot to show how best to grasp a wide range of objects found at a marketplace like Amazon; the second, called reinforcement learning, involves robots taking what they’ve learned and through trial and error further hone in their new skills, both for speed and accuracy. These skills, among others, help businesses complete their tasks and fulfill orders, such as a shopper’s Christmas list, faster and more effectively; Amazon uses 100,000 robots to fill customers’ orders, Wired says.
Decision makers also don’t have to worry about choosing between hiring human employees and hiring more robotic help – humans will always be needed for tasks that require manipulation, and to tell the robots what to do. The robot-human working relationship will continue to change and differentiate – humans might move into more creative roles in the future, while robots take on more tasks that require automation.