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Meet Amazon's new robots designed to reduce warehouse injuries

Meet Amazon's new robots designed to reduce warehouse injuries
  • Amazon is now testing new software and hardware, including autonomous robots, to make its warehouses safer.
  • Take a look at the four new robots: Bert, Ernie, Scooter, and Kermit.
  • These robots can complete a variety of tasks, from transporting totes to completing physical labor.

Amazon's "robotics and advanced technology" division is now testing new tech, including robots and motion sensors, to make its warehouses safer, the company announced on June 13.

Amazon's "robotics and advanced technology" division is now testing new tech, including robots and motion sensors, to make its warehouses safer, the company announced on June 13.
Amazon's "Scooter" robot. Amazon/YouTube

Source: Amazon

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These tests combine technology with "simple solutions" in an effort to make Amazon's fulfillment centers safer for its workers, according to the company.

These tests combine technology with "simple solutions" in an effort to make Amazon's fulfillment centers safer for its workers, according to the company.
Amazon's "Kermit" robot. Amazon/YouTube
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"Something as simple as changing the position of handles on totes may help lower the risk of injuries to our employees at a massive scale,"Kevin Keck, Amazon's worldwide director of advanced technology, said in a press release.

"Something as simple as changing the position of handles on totes may help lower the risk of injuries to our employees at a massive scale,"Kevin Keck, Amazon's worldwide director of advanced technology, said in a press release.
Amazon's "Ernie" robot. Amazon/YouTube

Source: Amazon

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The hardware and software crosses a wide range of tasks, from transporting totes across the warehouse, to completing tasks that could otherwise be physically taxing for humans.

The hardware and software crosses a wide range of tasks, from transporting totes across the warehouse, to completing tasks that could otherwise be physically taxing for humans.
Amazon's "Kermit" robot. Amazon/YouTube
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Amazon acknowledges that these developments may cause people to worry about the "robots replacing humans" rhetoric, but the company says it has continued to grow its robotics program while still adding jobs.

Amazon acknowledges that these developments may cause people to worry about the "robots replacing humans" rhetoric, but the company says it has continued to grow its robotics program while still adding jobs.
Amazon's "Kermit" robot. Amazon/YouTube
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And it could allow Amazon to cut the number of "recordable incidents" in half by 2025, Keck said.

And it could allow Amazon to cut the number of "recordable incidents" in half by 2025, Keck said.
Amazon's "motion-capture technology." Amazon/YouTube
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This push for warehouse safety follows a report from this month by the Washington Post's Jay Greene and Chris Alcantara detailing the number of safety issues in Amazon warehouses.

This push for warehouse safety follows a report from this month by the Washington Post's Jay Greene and Chris Alcantara detailing the number of safety issues in Amazon warehouses.
Amazon's "Scooter" robot. Amazon/YouTube
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According to the report, the number of serious injuries at Amazon warehouses almost doubles that of facilities owned by other companies.

According to the report, the number of serious injuries at Amazon warehouses almost doubles that of facilities owned by other companies.
Amazon's "Kermit" robot. Amazon/YouTube
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But in 2020, Amazon spent over $1 billion on safety measures, and employed over 6,200 people to focus on "workplace health and safety," a spokesperson told the Washington Post.

But in 2020, Amazon spent over $1 billion on safety measures, and employed over 6,200 people to focus on "workplace health and safety," a spokesperson told the Washington Post.
Amazon's "motion-capture technology." Amazon/YouTube

Source: Insider

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Now, let's take a closer look at the new robots.

Now, let's take a closer look at the new robots.
Amazon's "Scooter" robot. Amazon/YouTube
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The company unveiled four new robots in line with this push for safety: Ernie, Bert, Scooter, and Kermit.

The company unveiled four new robots in line with this push for safety: Ernie, Bert, Scooter, and Kermit.
Amazon's "Kermit" robot. Amazon/YouTube
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Let's start with Ernie.

Let's start with Ernie.
Amazon's "Ernie" robot. Amazon/YouTube
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Ernie, not to be confused with the orange Muppet, can remove totes from shelves, and can then hand the goods over to (human) employees.

Ernie, not to be confused with the orange Muppet, can remove totes from shelves, and can then hand the goods over to (human) employees.
Amazon's "Ernie" robot. Amazon/YouTube
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This means warehouse workers won't have to crouch down or stretch up to grab a tote.

This means warehouse workers won't have to crouch down or stretch up to grab a tote.
Amazon's "Ernie" robot. Amazon/YouTube
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"The innovation with a robot like Ernie is interesting because while it doesn't make the process go any faster, we're optimistic, based on our testing, it can make our facilities safer for employees," Keck said in the press release.

"The innovation with a robot like Ernie is interesting because while it doesn't make the process go any faster, we're optimistic, based on our testing, it can make our facilities safer for employees," Keck said in the press release.
Amazon's "Ernie" robot. Amazon/YouTube
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Now, onto Amazon's Bert, which also shouldn't be confused with Muppet Ernie's yellow puppet counterpart.

Now, onto Amazon's Bert, which also shouldn't be confused with Muppet Ernie's yellow puppet counterpart.
Amazon's "Bert" robot. Amazon/YouTube
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Bert is one of three autonomous robots being tested by Amazon.

Bert is one of three autonomous robots being tested by Amazon.
Amazon's "Bert" robot. Amazon/YouTube
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Bert can carry a variety of items - from small objects to, in the future, several heavy goods - through the warehouse by itself …

Bert can carry a variety of items - from small objects to, in the future, several heavy goods - through the warehouse by itself …
Amazon's "Bert" robot. Amazon/YouTube
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… saving human employees an extra trip.

… saving human employees an extra trip.
Amazon's "Bert" robot. Amazon/YouTube
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The last two bots, Scooter and Kermit, are autonomous cart transporters.

The last two bots, Scooter and Kermit, are autonomous cart transporters.
Amazon's "Scooter" robot. Amazon/YouTube
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Unlike Amazon's e-commerce carts, the warehouse carts hang onto the empty totes.

Unlike Amazon's e-commerce carts, the warehouse carts hang onto the empty totes.
Amazon's "Scooter" robot. Amazon/YouTube
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This means Amazon's human employees get to spend more time using their "critical thinking skills" instead of completing these more physically daunting tasks, according to the company.

This means Amazon's human employees get to spend more time using their "critical thinking skills" instead of completing these more physically daunting tasks, according to the company.
Amazon's "motion-capture technology." Amazon/YouTube
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Scooter pulls carts around the warehouse, and the company plans on implementing at least one Scooter at every facility in 2021.

Scooter pulls carts around the warehouse, and the company plans on implementing at least one Scooter at every facility in 2021.
Amazon's "Scooter" robot. Amazon/YouTube
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Unlike Scooter, Kemit focuses on towing around empty totes, which streamlines the tote return process.

Unlike Scooter, Kemit focuses on towing around empty totes, which streamlines the tote return process.
Amazon's "Kermit" robot. Amazon/YouTube
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Kermit follows a specific path around the warehouse and can adjust its speed or route as needed.

Kermit follows a specific path around the warehouse and can adjust its speed or route as needed.
Amazon's "Kermit" robot. Amazon/YouTube
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It's now being tested at different locations around the country.

It's now being tested at different locations around the country.
Amazon's "Kermit" robot. Amazon/YouTube
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Like Scooter, more Kermits will be implemented this year as well.

Like Scooter, more Kermits will be implemented this year as well.
Amazon's "Kermit" robot. Amazon/YouTube
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Besides robots, Amazon is also testing what it calls "motion-capture software."

Besides robots, Amazon is also testing what it calls "motion-capture software."
Amazon's "motion-capture technology." Amazon/YouTube
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The new tech, which doesn't have a cute or glitzy name just yet, is being developed near Seattle.

The new tech, which doesn't have a cute or glitzy name just yet, is being developed near Seattle.
Amazon's "motion-capture technology." Amazon/YouTube
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Unlike the robots, this software monitors how a person moves in a test lab and, in theory, Amazon's warehouses.

Unlike the robots, this software monitors how a person moves in a test lab and, in theory, Amazon's warehouses.
Amazon's "motion-capture technology." Amazon/YouTube
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Using this type of software allows the company to "more accurately compare data captured in a lab environment to industry standards," according to Amazon.

Using this type of software allows the company to "more accurately compare data captured in a lab environment to industry standards," according to Amazon.
Amazon's "motion-capture technology." Amazon/YouTube
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This, as well as comments from employees, could allow Amazon to implement simple but important changes, according to Keck.

This, as well as comments from employees, could allow Amazon to implement simple but important changes, according to Keck.
Amazon's "Ernie" robot. Amazon/YouTube
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