Amazon unveils its first fully autonomous warehouse robot, Proteus

22 Jun 2022

Amazon said its Proteus robot uses advanced safety, perception and navigation technology to work independently. Image: Amazon

Amazon said its Proteus robot can safely work in facilities and move around staff, while the company has revealed other robotic models designed to improve warehouse safety.

Amazon has released details of its first fully autonomous mobile robot, which will work in the same warehouse space as staff.

The robot is called Proteus and is currently designed to lift and move wheeled transport units around warehouses. Amazon said the robot will move autonomously through the company’s facilities using “advanced safety, perception and navigation technology”.

“Historically, it’s been difficult to safely incorporate robotics in the same physical space as people,” Amazon said in a blogpost. “We believe Proteus will change that while remaining smart, safe and collaborative.”

Amazon showed how the robot operates in a warehouse in a video.

Proteus shines a green light in front of itself while it moves through the facility. If a person steps in front of the light, the robot stops moving until the person has walked away. It also appears to be able to change its direction in response, turning in the opposite direction as the person in front of it.

Amazon also shared details of other robotic systems that it is testing for use at its facilities. This includes Cardinal, a large robotic arm that uses AI and computer vision to pick up a package, read the label and place it on the right wheeled transport.

The tech giant said it is testing a Cardinal prototype that can lift just over 20kg, with plans to deploy the robot in its facilities next year.

Amazon also showcased a package scanner system to replace hand-held versions used by employees. The company said this AI-powered scanner uses a camera system that runs at 120 frames per second, which lets it scan packages that employees are holding with both hands.

Amazon said this gives employees greater mobility and reduces injury risks as staff won’t have to hold packages in one hand and scan them with the other.

The company is also working on an improved storage system that moves containers to employees, as an alternative to staff having to bend or climb to reach the containers.

One benefit Amazon references with many of these new systems is employee safety. In April, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy told shareholders that the company is working to tackle employee injury rates at its warehouses.

A report by the Strategic Organizing Center claims that workers at Amazon facilities sustained more than 34,000 serious injuries on the job in 2021, which was double the injury rate of non-Amazon warehouses.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic