Amazon, a technology giant known for its relentless pursuit of automation, is making strides in integrating robotics into its vast network of warehouses. The company has initiated testing of “Digit,” a two-legged Amazon humanoid robot capable of grasping and lifting items. While initially used for tasks such as shifting empty tote boxes, Amazon’s push towards robotic automation has raised concerns about the potential impact on its massive workforce of nearly 1.5 million employees.
The Arrival of Amazon Humanoid Robot, Digit
Amazon’s exploration of humanoid robots takes another step with the introduction of Digit. Developed by Agility Robotics, a startup backed by Amazon, Digit stands 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighs 143 pounds, and possesses remarkable mobility. It can walk in multiple directions, crouch, and carry loads of up to 35 pounds. The company intends to deploy Digit in innovative ways within its warehouses, starting with assisting employees in tote recycling—a repetitive task of moving empty totes once inventory has been picked.
Tye Brady, the chief technologist at Amazon Robotics, said, “People are so central to the fulfillment process; the ability to think at a higher level, the ability to diagnose problems. We will always need people … I’ve never been around an automated system that works 100% of the time. I don’t think you have as well.”
Balancing Automation with Workforce Preservation
While the introduction of humanoid robots like Digit promises to streamline certain warehouse operations, it also sparks concerns about potential job displacement. Tye Brady, the chief technologist, assures that the deployment of robots will create new roles, offsetting the redundancy of some existing positions. He emphasizes the importance of people in Amazon’s operations, claiming they are irreplaceable. Brady envisions a future where humans and robots work collaboratively, with automation supporting rather than replacing the workforce.
Amazon’s investment in robotic solutions extends beyond Digit, as demonstrated by the deployment of the Sequoia robotic system in its Houston warehouses to expedite order processing. The company seeks to find a balance between automation and the preservation of human jobs, emphasizing the critical role employees play in the fulfillment process.