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Amazon robot can identify ‘tens of millions’ of products

11 November, 2022

Amazon has announced a robotic system that can identify, select and handle around 65% of the more than 100 million items in its inventory. The robot, called Sparrow, uses a combination of computer vision and AI (artificial intelligence) to identify tens of millions of products of differing shapes and sizes, although it still has problems with items that have loose or complex packaging.

The robot is based on a Fanuc machine that has been customised using Amazon hardware – including a suction system for picking up items – and software that uses sensors to identify products based on a variety of factors including size, shape and barcodes.

Amazon says that the Sparrow robot will take on repetitive tasks, allowing its employees to focus their time and energy on other things, while improving safety. It will also help to improve the shopping giant’s efficiency by automating a critical part of its fulfilment process.

The company claims that the Sparrow robot represents a major advance in technology. Last year, its global workforce picked, stowed, or packed around five billion packages – more than 13 million per day. It argues that robotics technologies will help them to work smarter – not harder.

Amazon has created more than 700 new job categories based on robots and other technologies. It says that the new roles, involving tens of thousands of employees, demonstrate the positive impact that technology can have for staff and the workplace.

Amazon’s Sparrow robot moves products from a bin at a fulfilment centre

Since 2020, Amazon has been offering its employees a 12-week classroom-based mechatronics and robotics apprenticeship programme, followed by 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and industry-recognised certifications. This is helping the employees to learn new skills and pursue maintenance roles. When they complete their apprenticeship, Amazon employees receive pay rises of around 40%.

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