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Amazon unveils warehouse robot capable of picking individual items


Ecommerce giant Amazon has introduced its new ‘Sparrow’ robotic arm which is capable of identifying individual items that vary in shape, size, and texture and could automate more jobs as it tries to cut logistics costs.

Sparrow can identify approximately 65% of Amazon’s inventory, the company told CNBC. Until now, this sort of sophisticated identification has been reserved for the company’s human employees.

The robotic arm uses seven suction cups to pick items, it can sort products into tote boxes which are then sent to the next step of the packing process.

In a statement, Amazon said: “Sparrow represents a major advancement in the state-of-the-art technology of industrial robotics. Leveraging computer vision and artificial intelligence (AI), Sparrow can recognise and handle millions of items.

“Last year, with the support of Amazon technologies, our employees around the world picked, stowed, or packed approximately five billion packages—or over 13 million packages per day. Robotics technology enables us to work smarter, not harder, to operate efficiently and safely.”

Earlier this year, Amazon unveiled its first autonomous robot called Proteus, which can lift and move package carrying carts. Currently, around 75% of five billion packages the company processes annually are handled by robots in at least one part of the delivery process

“Robotics technology enables us to work smarter — not harder — to operate efficiently and safely,” said Joe Quinlivan, Amazon’s vice-president of global robotics.

The US ecommerce firm stressed that the robotic arm will create jobs. It said that already the deployment of technology across its operations has led to over 700 new categories of jobs.

However, the introduction of these robots come as Amazon works to cut costs in its online stores division. In October, the tech group warned that consumer spending was in “uncharted waters” as it issued revenue forecasts well below Wall Street expectations.

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