Amazon Developing ‘Picking’ Robots for Warehouses ( www.theinformation.com )

When Amazon announced plans last week to bump the minimum wage for 250,000 employees to $15 an hour, it avoided a related, but sensitive topic: When might machines replace those workers, many of whom work in its warehouses?   

Amazon already uses robots to handle some jobs in its warehouses, known as fulfillment centers, but it has downplayed the risk of robots replacing “pickers,” the workers who grab items from shelves and put them into bins for packaging and shipping. The company is, however, developing robots that could one day handle the jobs of human pickers, according to three people with knowledge of the work. One of Amazon’s research projects involves a robot that can visually identify items coming down a conveyor belt, pick them up with a compressed-air vacuum gripper, and move them off the belt onto a table or shelf, said one of those people, who witnessed the robot in action.