Amazon’s new warehouse robot looks like a Roomba but stands up like an Olympic athlete.
The company’s first fully autonomous robot arrives a decade later Amazon bought robot coordination and fulfillment company Kiva (opens in new tab) and made its first nearly billion-dollar bet on robotic automation.
Proteus, however, is different. Inside a launch in the new bot (opens in new tab)Amazon explained that Proteus was built for autonomy and to bypass employees.
Amazon also released a video showing Proteus in action. Looking like a giant iRobot Roomba, but with friendly, blinking monochrome eyes at the front, the flat robot rolls under an Amazon GoCart full of products (basically a product cage). The robot rolls into what is supposed to be the central space under the cart, makes a 90 degree turn, and then lifts the entire cart off the ground. Amazon doesn’t say the robot’s maximum lifting capacity, but it’s clearly lifting a heavy weight like it’s a lot of dust on the floor.
The load is also perfectly balanced so that when the Proteus rolls forward, the stroller doesn’t tip or tip over. He later navigates to a charging station and connects.
To demonstrate Proteus’ cooperative nature, the robot stops casually when a human worker crosses its path. They seem to look at each other for a moment before each continues on its way.
All of this is possible thanks, notes Amazon, to the company’s advanced and proprietary security, perception and navigation technology.
For now, Proteus is confined to Amazon warehouses with GoCart handling areas, but the retail giant plans to expand Proteus across its entire inventory and fulfillment network.
Proteus won’t be the only new Amazon robot on the ground. The company also revealed cardinal (opens in new tab)a single-arm robot that, using AI and computer vision, can identify, lift and sort heavy packages (up to 50 pounds).
land of bots
Our reliance on Amazon has exploded in recent years as we struggle with the limits imposed on us all by COVID-19. Even as the pandemic subsides, Amazon is still central to our shopping habits.
The company raised $470 billion last year (opens in new tab) and it is clearly using some of that profit to transform the workforce in its distribution centers into more automated spaces. Perhaps not coincidentally, these efforts occur when Amazon is dealing with the rise of unionized workers (opens in new tab) in some of its warehouses.
Amazon’s robots aren’t meant to replace workers, but surely part of that will happen when the Cardinals take over and sort heavy boxes and Proteus is able to transport thousands of GoCarts filled with the products we all order every day.
One thing that is certain is that each and every Amazon robot is about to get into high gear for Amazon Prime Day.