Warehouse Robots Work Together to Handle Tasks

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Technology has long been criticized for its potential to take jobs away from humans. It especially comes into play in the warehouse space.

Watching a Boston Dynamics video, you can see how not only is a robot working in a warehouse, but two very different warehouse robots are working together to handle basic tasks. There are no humans needed here.

Handle Meets OTTO

Boston Dynamics introduced the public to a robot named “Handle” three years ago. It was impressive in the way it could quickly move and turn with both wheels and legs, standing nearly six-and-a-half feet tall, and traveling quickly across a warehouse.

Handle has found a work buddy in an OTTO Motors robot that seems to be more or less a motorized palette. The two work together to move boxes around a warehouse. There’s no doubt they’re handling the task well, making it hard to argue against the use of robots in the workplace.

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In a Boston Dynamics video, Handle picks up boxes from a shelf and places them on OTTO, which turns around as it needs to to allow Handle to place the boxes. When OTTO gets full, it drives away and transports the boxes where it needs to.

Kevin Blankespoor, vice president of product engineering at Boston Dynamics, explained the teamwork. “We’ve built a proof of concept demonstration of a heterogeneous fleet of robots building distribution center orders to provide a more flexible warehouse automation situation,” he said.

“To meet the rates that our customers expect, we’re continuing to expand Handle’s capabilities and optimizing its interactions with other robots like the OTTO 1500 for warehouse applications.”

In turn, CTO and co-founder of OTTO Motors, Ryan Gariepy, said in a press release that the company is excited to work with Boston Dynamics and that they can use the technology for a “whole new realm of applications.”

It’s expected that the warehouse automation industry will be valued at over $22 billion in just two years. Amazon already uses robots similar to OTTO, but they work with humans, not other robots. But seeing how well it works with Handle, it’s easy to see how this is putting people out of work. The more than 100,000 Amazon warehouse employees may not be too happy to see this video.

However, Boston Dynamics founder Marc Raibert frequently remarks that automation will make people more productive so that they don’t have to do the jobs that are dull or dangerous. For sure they won’t have to do dull or dangerous jobs, but what will they do if that’s not available?

Do Warehouse Robots Take Away Jobs

Sure, people won’t have to do the dull and dangerous jobs, but they may not have the skills to do other things. Maybe that’s why they are doing those jobs. If you take away unskilled labor, then what will they do instead?

What do you think of technology and automation getting to the point of warehouse robots being able to work together? Will this eliminate jobs or make people more productive? Tell us in a comment below.

Image Credit: Boston Dynamics via YouTube