AMAZON EMPLOYS 45,000 robots, but they all have something missing: hands.
Squat wheeled machines carry boxes around in more than 20 of the company’s fulfillment centers. But it falls exclusively to humans to do things like pulling items from shelves or placing them into brown boxes that bring garbage bags and pens and books to our homes.
Robots able to help with so-called picking tasks would boost Amazon’s efficiency—and make it much less reliant on human workers. It’s why the company has invited a motley crew of mechanical arms, grippers, suction cups—and their human handlers—to Nagoya, Japan, this week to show off their manipulation skills.
The Amazon Robotics Challenge tasks teams with picking up objects ranging from towels to toilet brushes and moving them between storage bins and boxes. The handiest contestants stand to win prizes from a pool totaling $250,000.