• Amazon warehouse is fully busy with automated robots replacing humans
  • Still the warehouse needs humans as the robots are not intelligent
  • The workforce is given “tech vests” to avoid collision with robots

What are these Tech vests

Amazon’s fulfillment centers use dozens of robotic wheel-based “drive units” that move containers of ordered items to human pickers. When a worker enters its space, the robot receives an alert from the tech vest to confirm that a human is close by. The robot will then slow its speed and, if necessary, alter its route to reduce the chances of a collision.

Before Amazon introduced the tech vest, an employee would have to mark out a space in advance to let the drive units know where they would be working, whether performing maintenance, picking up a dropped item, or carrying out some other task.

How Tech vest works

It appears that the tech vest is able to signal a human’s presence from a greater distance than the robot’s sensor technology can currently handle by itself, giving the robot extra time to reroute, if necessary.

In scenarios where humans work alongside moving robots, most accidents take place during actions that are outside of the usual routine, making the tech vest an important addition to the equipment used by Amazon’s workforce. Indeed, the company said that since its deployment last year, vest alerts have been issued to nearby robots more than a million times.

Amazon made its first major step toward robot helpers as far back as 2012 when it acquired warehouse automation solution company Kiva for $775 million.

Fancy taking a look inside one of Amazon’s increasingly high-tech fulfillment centers? Digital Trends visited one in 2018 to see items bought and boxed in a matter of minutes.

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Samba Shiva Thadavarthi
Mr. Shiva is a technologist by profession and technical writer by passion. He has served in several organisations as Research and Development manager and wrote versatile articles on the current trends of technological transformation.

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