Friday, April 6, 2012

Amazon Buys Robot Company for $755M Reducing Warehouse Staff’s Duties to Standing Still and Pushing Pretty Red Buttons


Kiva Systems is a company that found some success selling their warehouse robots to many major retailers looking to keep up with the juggernaut that is notable clients of their included the GAP and Toys “R” Us.
However, just recently Amazon responded with a big capitalistic FU to their competitors by buying Kiva Systems. This means that Amazon now kind of owns the distribution systems of many of their rivals.  The price of $755 million doesn’t sound too crazy now, does it?
But as we shall see, the real loser in this deal is the human race.  This is because along with this acquisition, Amazon is now the proud father of Kiva’s army of tiny orange warehouse robots.  Kiva’s promotion video gives us a bleak view of how the world will look when the robots take over.
Upon watching the video the first thing that you’ll notice is how poorly produced it is; like a 1980’s sexual harassment training video.  Hopefully Amazon will step in here and give it some zing.
Moving past that, we can see that Kiva’s warehouse system replaces traditional racks with dynamic ones carried by little orange robots that look like those things that scooted around the floor of the Death Star.
In the same way these little robots zoom along the warehouse floor to bring items directly to their human coworkers.  This frees the human worker of duties which require training like moving or thinking.
When products arrive to the warehouse the monk… I mean human places a tracking device with a pretty flashing red light onto the box of goods.  The robot then comes along carrying the correct shelf for that box.  Once the box is loaded the human zaps the shelf with a laser. Then it scurries off to its proper place and the next shelf comes along.
Outgoing shipments basically work in the same way where the robots come and go around a human who moves the items from one shelf to another putting the appropriate items into their outgoing package.  The human again doesn’t need to learn complex skills like literacy because the robots tell them where to put each item with a flashing red light.
When the outgoing box is full the robot carries the shelf to another human whose duty it is to tape the box closed and pass it off to yet another robot.
The inventory system and orders are all managed on a server by “distribution center operators” who can arrange shelves in the best places at the best times avoiding any complicated rearranging of goods.
Whether the “distribution center operators” are in-house or work for Kiva is uncertain from the video.  However it does make one stroke their chin in suspicion of what Amazon might be able to do with such information if they can get access to it.
Back in the warehouse though; with the diminished physical and mental capacity needed for the job, human workers should be able to pull off 72 hour shifts before any loss in efficiency is noticed.  This is great news for the bottom line.
The glaring truth in this video is that the only thing keeping humans in Kiva’s loop is our opposable thumbs.  So when we start seeing robots with thumbs, that’s when you really know it’s all over for our kind.  It’s just like in a documentary I saw called Terminator 2.


No comments:

Post a Comment