Much of the work needed to move goods and pack orders was done by automation by Amazon. There is still a lot of work for humans in those facilities, even though some tasks are too complex for machines to do reliably.

Sparrow is designed to pick out items in piles so they can be packed into orders. It is one of the most difficult tasks in warehouse robotics because there are so many different objects, each with a different shape, texture, and malleability. Sparrow takes on that challenge by using machine learning and cameras to identify objects in a bin and plan how to grab one using a custom gripper. At the company's manufacturing facility in Massachusetts, Amazon showed Sparrow for the first time.

Sparrow is currently being tested by Amazon at a facility in Texas. Sixty five percent of the 100 million items in Sparrow's inventory can be handled. The range is the most impressive thing about the robot according to Tye Brady. He says that no one has Amazon's inventory. Sparrow can grasp stuffies, but can't grasp the packaging.

Making machines capable of picking a wide range of individual objects with close to the accuracy and speed of humans could change the economics of online commerce. A number of companies are selling systems that can pick objects in warehouses. Covariant is a startup that helps robots learn how to handle things they haven't seen before. It's not possible to match the ability of humans to handle any object reliably and at high speeds. A human can pick a lot of stuff. Brady wouldn't say how fast Sparrow can pick items.

Automating more work in warehouses leads to the thought that humans are going to be replaced by machines. The relationship between humans and machines in the workplace has been more complicated. As its business continues to grow, Amazon has increased its workforce even as it has rolled out more automation. The company seems to be sensitive to the idea that machines can be better than humans. Employees who went from low-level jobs to more advanced ones were spotlighted at the event. According to internal data obtained by Reveal, there is a correlation between the pace of work and the number of injuries suffered by Amazon workers. The company claims that its facilities are safer with the use of technology.

Brady said the role of robot is not understood. He doesn't think it's a good idea to replace people. The win is if I can allow people to focus on higher level tasks.

It can be hard to distinguish hype from reality when it comes to robot capabilities. While other show off futuristic humanoid robots that are many years from being useful, Amazon has quietly gone aboutAutomating a large portion of its operations. The company makes more industrialrobots per year than any other company in the world.

The use of industrialrobots is increasing. A new record for the industry was set in October when the International Federation of Robotics reported a 31 percent increase in the number of new robot installations. Many of the new machines are either mobile robots that wheel around factories and warehouses carrying goods or examples ofcollaborative robots that are designed to be safe to work with humans. The collaborative robot Proteus was introduced by Amazon this year, which avoids human workers as it goes.

Amazon demonstrated a new delivery drone that can carry up to 5 pounds. In Lockeford, California, and College Station, Texas, Amazon has been testing a new, more efficient drones. A new electric delivery vehicle made by Rivian includes custom safety systems for collision warning and automatic braking, as well as a system called Fleet Edge that gathers street-view footage and gps data to improve delivery route.