Amazon’s Robot Army

Yesterday I posted videos of two kinds of robots. One showing a driverless car that allowed a blind person to pick up some Mexican food and his dry cleaning, another, some kind of hive-mind controlled swarm of micro-quad copters that seemed to come right out of a Michael Crichton novel.

Today, via an high school friend who works there, I found out about another type of robot, natch, a robot system, designed to be integrated into a warehouse much in the same way a circulatory system feeds nutrients, repairs damage, and removes waste from an organism. Add a self-learning neural net to the “nervous system” of this system and the singularity has pretty much arrived.

Kiva Systems was recently acquired by Amazon for $775 million and once you learn what they do, it’s no surprise. Instead of having workers go out into the stacks to pull inventory, the Kiva bots carry shelves of inventory to the workers. It all happens in real-time with inventory being dynamically managed so that less-popular items move their way to the back of the warehouse while faster moving items come up front. The bots work both ways too. Not only do they bring items to be shipped, they also can take boxes of new items off the trucks to be stocked into inventory.

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