Amazon may soon replace human employees with robots. The e-commerce giant hosted a robotics conference last week, and the event included the Amazon Picking Challenge. The challenge consisted of seeing how robots can fulfill the job of grabbing items and them in tubs. It seems easy to get robots to fulfill orders, but getting a robot to recognize millions of items in different colors or sizes is difficult.
Robots are put to the test
Computer vision is required to operate the robots. This system is a method that helps robots not only understand the items it sees but also to operate grabbing instruments to pick up all the items in different sizes.
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The judges in the competition gave points to robots with the most successful attempts at picking up items. They also subtracted points from robots that damaged or even dropped items.
RBO’s robot won the competition as its design successfully picked 10 out of the 12 objects. It earned a total of 148 points and received a $20,000 cash prize. Taking second place was a robot that earned a total of 88 points. The team behind that robot was from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Amazon already operates warehouse robots
Interesting enough, Amazon already operates over 15,000 robots made by Kiva Systems. The robots carry things around the warehouse, but humans are still needed for the vast majority of tasks like placing the items in tubs and sending them off for packaging.
It is highly unlikely that Amazon will bring RBO’s robots into its warehouses, at least not anytime soon. The company plans on hiring about 6,000 more people. The main problem with robots is that they are no more effective than human employees.
This revelation isn’t to say that robots couldn’t replace humans in the future, however. Robotics engineers are constantly looking for ways to improve technologies for the future.