Video: See how Amazon robots are accelerating supply chain

Meta Group Director Martin Harbech says Amazon Robotics' humanoid robot is sign Industry 4.0 is new reality, but warns of reskilling challenges

Amazon has begun testing human-like collaborative robots at its robotics research and development site. 

The company is currently testing Digit, a two-legged ​robot that can grasp and lift items. It is designed to perform repetitive tasks and to work collaboratively with employees. Digit is a product of Amazon’s partnership with Agility Robotics

“Digit can move, grasp, and handle items in spaces and corners of warehouses in novel ways,” Amazon said in a statement. “Its size and shape are well suited for buildings that are designed for humans. 

“We believe there is a big opportunity to scale a mobile manipulator solution, such as Digit, which can work collaboratively with employees.”

Amazon is the world’s largest online retailer, and has embraced robotics at an ever-increasing pace since founding its robotics arm, Amazon Robotics, in 2003. 

In 2020, the company also acquired autonomous warehouse robotics startup Canvas Technology, which designs and develops mobile robotic technology for factories and warehouses.

Amazon Robotics 'has added 1000s of jobs'

Amazon began using robotics in its facilities in 2012, and since then the company says it has added hundreds of thousands of jobs worldwide.

Last year Amazon revealed its intelligent robotic system, Sparrow, which it says streamlines the fulfilment process by moving individual products before they get packaged.

Amazon currently has more than 750,000 robots deployed across its operations, even though a decade ago, robots played a negligible role in its global warehouse and distribution network.

Writing on LinkedIn, Martin Harbech, Group Director of Meta – parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp – says the latest Amazon robot development is categorical proof “the fourth industrial revolution is here, whether we like it or not”.

He adds: “There is no longer any doubt that AI, computer vision and robotics will replace many tasks over the coming decade.”

Harbech goes on to say Industry 4.0 technology will “unlock many new opportunities, make many industries much safer, and create many new high-skilled jobs that don’t exist today”.

But he also sounds a note of warning, saying that space-age tech also means it is “critically important” that organisations “do not underestimate the massive reskilling and up-skilling challenge on the horizon”.

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