Your next iPhone might be packed by an android

Amazon trials humanoid robots to aid deliveries

Amazon robot
(Image credit: Amazon)

Amazon could use humanoid robots in its delivery centres in the near future, to make packing and item selection more efficient.

A trial run in a test facility may well lead to a roll out across delivery centres in the US and elsewhere.

That means your next Apple device could be selected by an android (cheeky, I know).

Digit is a bipedal robot, so walks on legs rather than tears through the aisles on wheels, and can move, grasp and handle items to help human employees with simple tasks.

Designed by Agility Robotics, with investment from Amazon, the mechanical assistant will initially be used to "recycle totes". That means it will pick up and store empty crates when items have been removed. It's a highly repetitive task, so by having Digit do it instead can release regular employees for more complicated work.

As reported by The Guardian, Amazon's chief technologist, Tye Brady, claimed that the robots will "eliminate all the menial, the mundane and the repetitive" tasks around its global centres. He denied that it will lead to job losses, commenting that people are "irreplaceable" in its operations.

"People are so central to the fulfilment process – the ability to think at a higher level, the ability to diagnose problems," he explained.

“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."

The robot itself, which was shown to collected media at one of the company's facilities in Seattle, is 5-foot 9-inches and weighs 143lb (65kg). It can walk forwards, backwards and crouch.

It can carry around a quarter of its own bodyweight.

Digit isn't the only automated assistant soon to be deployed by Amazon. it also has Sequoia, which looks a bit like a robot vacuum cleaner with Ikea shelving on its head.

It is capable of identifying and storing inventory at up to 75% faster than before. It can process orders quicker too, so same-day deliveries can be achieved more often.

It's not yet known how quickly Amazon plans to rollout these technologies to its fulfilment centres around the globe. It has said that there is a "big opportunity to scale" their use, however.

Rik Henderson
News Editor

Rik is T3’s news editor, which means he looks after the news team and the up-to-the-minute coverage of all the hottest gadgets and products you’ll definitely want to read about. And, with more than 35 years of experience in tech and entertainment journalism, including editing and writing for numerous websites, magazines, and newspapers, he’s always got an eye on the next big thing.

Rik also has extensive knowledge of AV, TV streaming and smart home kit, plus just about everything to do with games since the late 80s. Prior to T3, he spent 13 years at Pocket-lint heading up its news team, and was a TV producer and presenter on such shows as Channel 4's GamesMaster, plus Sky's Games World, Game Over, and Virtual World of Sport.