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Amazon unveiled its new ‘Sparrow’ sorting robot, which could soon replace some human warehouse workers.
The robot is intended to identify and sort specific products along Amazon’s fulfillment line, a task that was previously only performed by humans.
“Sparrow is the first robotic system in our warehouses that can detect, select, and handle individual products in our inventory,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement released in conjunction with the product’s debut on Thursday at Amazon’s Delivering The Future conference near Boston.
Warehouse workers are concerned that the robots will replace them, with one telling Insider that Sparrow “will take my job.”
The robot arm is currently being tested in a warehouse in Texas, but the company intends to roll it out nationwide as soon as next year.
Sparrow is programmed with artificial intelligence to distinguish between products based on shape and size. It can then pick up and sort items using its suction cup hand based on the product’s category or intended shipping destination.
Amazon stated in a patent application filed in 2020 that Sparrow is intended to replace human workers who “pick items from inventory, place items in totes, remove items from totes, place items into bins, remove items from bins, and place items into boxes for shipping.”
Fears that Sparrow might oust people from their jobs have received resistance from Amazon.
The robot will “take on repetitive tasks, enabling our employees to focus their time and energy on other things,” the company claimed. It is designed to work with employees rather than against them.
Over 750,000 Amazon employees work in American warehouses, many of whom perform the sorting tasks that Sparrow will automate.
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