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Amazon's Quest for the 'Holy Grail' of Robotics

By The Wall Street Journal

December 5, 2022

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For decades, one of the hardest problems for robot developers to crack has been something seemingly mundane: how to replicate the human hand's ability to pick up stuff.

Amazon.com has just come a lot closer to achieving this elusive goal, with a leap in its automation prowess that promises far-reaching effects for its huge workforce and its future growth ambitions.

The tech giant last month unveiled a collection of new robots, one of which is suited to replacing humans in the most common job at Amazon – picking up items and placing them elsewhere. The linchpin of this new kind of automation is a robot arm – appropriately named Sparrow after the tenacious, pervasive bird – that combines advanced artificial intelligence, a variety of grippers, and the speed and precision that is now standard in off-the-shelf industrial robotic arms.

The announcement was easy to miss, coming as it did amid a run of news that, in part, illustrated some of the challenges Amazon is trying to tackle with its automation effort. The company began layoffs of corporate employees in mid-November, part of a sweeping cost-cutting effort to deal with the aftereffects of its rapid expansion during the pandemic.

From The Wall Street Journal
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