Amazon’s new robotic arm uses AI and suction cups to pick up and sort MILLIONS of diverse products


Amazon’s new robotic arm is capable of handling and sorting millions of unique items – a major milestone for the ecommerce giant – and a sign that it could one day replace a large number of its human warehouse workers. 

The robotic arm, dubbed Sparrow, is powered by a combination of artificial intelligence, computer vision and suction cups. It is able to deftly pick up and move items that vary in shape, size and texture. 

Although the company has long featured a range of different automation in its gigantic fulfillment centers, Sparrow is the first Amazon robot able to discern so many items and, as such, could render many warehouse workers obsolete in the future.

Amazon’s new robotic arm is capable of handling and sorting millions of unique items – a major milestone for the ecommerce giant

The robotic arm, dubbed Sparrow, is powered by a combination of artificial intelligence, computer vision and suction cups. It is able to deftly pick up and move items that vary in shape, size and texture

The robotic arm, dubbed Sparrow, is powered by a combination of artificial intelligence, computer vision and suction cups. It is able to deftly pick up and move items that vary in shape, size and texture

Although the company has long featured a range of different automation in its gigantic fulfillment centers, Sparrow is the first Amazon robot able to discern so many items, and, as such, could render many warehouse workers obsolete in the future

Although the company has long featured a range of different automation in its gigantic fulfillment centers, Sparrow is the first Amazon robot able to discern so many items, and, as such, could render many warehouse workers obsolete in the future

Last year Amazon employees – with the help of technological instruments and automation – picked, stowed, or packed approximately 5 billion packages—or over 13 million packages per day. 

The robotic arm can identify about 65% of Amazon’s total inventory, the company told CNBC. Prior to this invention, only human workers could provide this type of more nuanced identification of products. 

The company states that robotics technology enables its workforce to ‘work smarter, not harder’ and ‘to operate efficiently and safely.’

‘Working with our employees, Sparrow will take on repetitive tasks, enabling our employees to focus their time and energy on other things, while also advancing safety,’ the company said in a blog post. 

‘At the same time, Sparrow will help us drive efficiency by automating a critical part of our fulfillment process so we can continue to deliver for customers.’

It’s not yet clear how fast Sparrow will be integrated into Amazon’s warehouses. As Bloomberg notes, many of the company’s products sit on mesh shelves, which may not be compatible with this type of robotic arm. 

Amazon points out that the creation and deployment of existing robotics and new technology has created more than 700 new categories of jobs at the company. 

‘These new types of roles, which employ tens of thousands of people across Amazon, help tangibly demonstrate the positive impact technology and robotics can have for our employees and for our workplace,’ the Seattle-based firm says in a blog post. 

The robotic arm can identify about 65% of Amazon's total inventory, the company told CNBC. Prior to this invention, only human workers could provide this type of more nuanced identification of products

The robotic arm can identify about 65% of Amazon’s total inventory, the company told CNBC. Prior to this invention, only human workers could provide this type of more nuanced identification of products

'Working with our employees, Sparrow will take on repetitive tasks, enabling our employees to focus their time and energy on other things, while also advancing safety,' the company said in a blog post .

‘Working with our employees, Sparrow will take on repetitive tasks, enabling our employees to focus their time and energy on other things, while also advancing safety,’ the company said in a blog post .

‘Supporting our employees and helping them transition and advance their career into roles working with our technology is an important part of how we will continue to innovate,’ Amazon says. 

Amazon also boasts internal offerings for employees who want to advance their understanding of robotics, including through a 12-week classroom apprentice program that’s covered by the company, 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and well-recognized certifications. 

It says that following completion of the program, employee pay goes up by about 40% for participants. 

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