June 21, 2022
Amazon has announced Proteus, a fully autonomous mobile robot for its warehouses that can move through facilities and perform its work around people, which eliminates the need to be confined to restricted areas. The new robot includes advanced safety, perception and navigation technology developed by Amazon.
In a blog post announcing the robot, Amazon said its investment in Kiva Robotics “was a big bet in forecasting the role innovation would play in helping us meet our customers’ needs while making work safer, simpler, and more productive for employees.” Now more than 10 years later, the company announced 520,000 robotic drive units, the addition of more than 1 million jobs worldwide, with dozens of other robotic system types in its facilities.
With Proteus able to move around people (instead of in limited areas), this can enable new tasks, such as the lifting and movement of GoCarts, the non-automated, wheeled transports that are used to move packages through an Amazon facility. Amazon said Proteus will initially be deployed in the outbound GoCart handling areas in its fulfillment centers and sorting centers, with a vision of automating GoCart handling throughout the network, to reduce the need for people to manually move heavy objects through a facility.
The company also announced additional robotics innovations, including:
- Cardinal, a robotic work cell that uses artificial intelligence and computer vision to quickly select one package out of a pile of packages, lift it, read the label and precisely place it on a GoCart to send the package on the next step of its journey. “Cardinal reduces the risk of employee injuries by handling tasks that require lifting and turning of large or heavy packages or complicated packing in a confined space.”
- Amazon Robotics Identification, an AI-powered scanning capability with computer vision and machine learning technology to enable easier scanning of packages. In fulfillment centers, scanning is currently manual – an item arrives at a workstation, the package is picked from a bin by an employee, and they find a bar code and scan it with a hand scanner. ARID removes the manual scanning process by using a camera system that runs at 120 frames per second, allowing employees to handle the packages freely with both hands instead of one, or they can work to position the package to scan it by hand.
- Containerized Storage System, a robotic system that delivers products to employees in a more ergonomically friendly manner. The CSS does this “through a highly choreographed dance of robotics and software,” determining which pod has the container with the needed product, where the container is located in the pod, how to grab and pull the container to the employee, and how to pick it up once the employee has retrieved the product.
Amazon said that through robotics, its facilities are safer and more collaborative than ever, playing an integral role in delivering products for customers. “What started as an interesting acquisition has grown into a dedicated team of roboticists, engineers, software developers, ergonomic specialists, and other experts who have revolutionized our operations,” said Amazon.