The future of Amazon’s logistics network will undoubtedly involve artificial intelligence and robotics, but it is an open question at what point AI-powered machines will be doing a majority of the work.
According to Scott Anderson, the company’s director of robotics fulfilment, the point at which an Amazon warehouse is fully, end-to-end automated is at least 10 years away. Anderson’s comments, reported by Reuters, highlight the current pace of automation, even in environments that are ripe for robotic labour, like an Amazon warehouse.
As it stands today, robots in the workforce are proficient mostly at specific, repeatable tasks for which they are precisely programmed. To get the robot to do something else takes expensive, time-consuming reprogramming. And robots that can perform multiple different tasks and operate in dynamic environments that require the robot see and understand its surroundings are still firmly in the realm of research and experimental trials. Even the simple process of identifying an object and picking it up without having been trained on that object before requires a series of complex, sophisticated software and hardware that does not yet exist in commercial fashion.