Kiva Systems developers launch new company and their own logistics robot

Kiva Systems was a company that built a mobile robot for logistics operations, mainly for use in warehouses. It was a basically a small platform on wheels, and proved popular throughout the industry.

But then it got bought out by Amazon, which initially said it would still sell it to the rest of the logistics industry but actually didn’t. Instead it rebranded Kiva as Amazon Robotics and turned it into a business unit of its own.

The online retail giant now has one of the largest number of robots in operation of any company in the world.

But two former executives at Kiva Systems – Jerome Dubois and Rylan Hamilton – have now launched a new company and a range of new logistics automation solutions.  Continue reading Kiva Systems developers launch new company and their own logistics robot

Interview: Fast-moving robotics and automation market prompts updates to forecasts

apple homepod
The new Apple HomePod, the home automation device which mostly acts like a speaker and plays music

The global market for robotics and automation systems is growing so fast that it’s causing seasoned industry analysts to revise their forecasts. 

For example, the Boston Consulting Group released a report into the robotics which it has now updated with new numbers.

The causes of the reviews include the relatively new interest in personal robotics technology for the home, and the burgeoning market in collaborative robots for industry.

Another key development is the launch of the Apple HomePod, which, along with Amazon Alexa and Google Home, looks set to automate a huge number of homes to levels never seen before.

Continue reading Interview: Fast-moving robotics and automation market prompts updates to forecasts

Amazon could assimilate Whole Foods workers into robots and drones in some sort of cyber-physical dystopian Borg-like nightmare

The Whole Foods Market in Boulder, Colorado, US. Reuters / Rick Wilking
The Whole Foods Market in Boulder, Colorado, US. Reuters / Rick Wilking

By Lisa Baertlein and Harriet McLeod, Reuters

The merger that shook food and retail stocks on Friday – Amazon’s proposed deal to buy Whole Foods Market – rattled some employees of the upscale grocery chain who expressed fears ranging from layoffs to the loss of their laid-back corporate culture.

The online retailer hopes the $13.7 billion acquisition helps it disrupt the grocery business and expand its real-world store footprint.

Carmen Clark, 37, a six-year employee at a store in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, said some workers worry that Amazon-led automation could lead to job cuts.  Continue reading Amazon could assimilate Whole Foods workers into robots and drones in some sort of cyber-physical dystopian Borg-like nightmare

How Burger King’s OK Google ad exposed flaws in home automation

Burger King recently decided to try something different to promote its classic Whopper. The fast food giant aired a commercial in which a Burger King employee who says he doesn’t have time to talk about all of the ingredients in a Whopper comes up with another way for customers to learn about its ingredients.

The employee leans into the camera and says “OK Google, what is the Whopper burger?” This activated Google’s smart speakers — Google Home, and that’s when people started having fun. The actual ingredient list, as published on Wikipedia, was edited with some items replaced with things like children, toe-nail clippings and rat — among other creative ingredients.

Google wasn’t in on the plan, which led to an interesting chain of events that exposed some of the weaknesses of virtual assistants and home automation.

Voice Recognition
The Burger King ad pointed out an issue with voice-activated home automation devices. It’s not difficult for people besides the primary owners to manipulate them.

With some creativity, someone may find a way to do something more nefarious than manipulate the ingredients of your favorite burger. If clever had turned to criminal, this would be an easy way for hackers to manipulate virtual assistants.

Learning to recognize specific users’ voices would help minimize these problems and give people more control over their devices. To get around this issue, tech companies need to start improving the voice recognition capabilities of their VAs, which they are currently working on.

Google
Google responded to the ad by changing their devices so the voice in the ad wouldn’t wake them. They probably did this by getting the device to recognize the voice and then compare it to a blacklist before responding.
This worked for a while, but Burger King got around it by airing similar commercials featuring different actors. Google has said it’s working on the ability to recognize the voices of multiple users.

Amazon
Amazon, which manufactures one of the more popular smart speakers, is also working on multiple user functionality. Users would have to set up this feature in advance by recording a voice sample. Currently, Amazon’s Alexa can recognize more than one user, but you have to switch accounts by saying “switch accounts” or by using the Alexa app.

Microsoft
Microsoft’s Cortana appears on Windows 10 devices, as well as some third-party devices, including smart speakers made by Harman Kardon. Although Microsoft hasn’t gotten as much attention as some other players in the home automation game, Cortana does respond pretty well to voice commands.
You can even train Cortana to recognize your voice and set it to respond to only you. It’s probably a pretty safe bet, too, that Microsoft is working on improving this functionality.

Apple
Apple’s Siri has some ability to recognize speech patterns of particular users. The company doesn’t have smart speakers on the market yet, but it has been rumored to be working on them. Voice recognition is likely a top priority for Apple as it works on this technology, as it’s important to the security and privacy of its users.

It’s even been rumored that Apple may use facial recognition technology to verify users. The fact that Apple typically only allows Siri to work with its devices, and not third-party ones, presents another challenge.

Home automation and virtual assistants are just starting to take off, and this Burger King kerfuffle is likely just one of many slightly strange happenings that will occur as they develop. Although Google didn’t seem to like the ad — it blocked its devices from responding — and some users may have gotten annoyed, Burger King did succeed in getting itself some attention.

The ad put Google Home in the spotlight, too, and highlighted its capabilities, which is a plus for Google as well. It also highlighted some weaknesses in home automation, which tech companies will have to continue to address.

Megan Wild is editor of YourWildHome.com

Amazon has 45,000 robots working in its warehouses

amazon robotics warehouse robot 1

lockAmazon, by far the world’s largest online retailer, bought Kiva Systems a few years back. 

At that time, Kiva was a small robotics company appreciated by logistics customers for its autonomous warehouse vehicles.

Now, repackaged as Amazon Robotics machines, those vehicles or their descendants are working in Amazon warehouses – and in very large numbers.  Continue reading Amazon has 45,000 robots working in its warehouses

Third book: Robotics and Automation Industry Thought Leaders

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The third volume in our series of books, Robotics and Automation Industry Thought Leaders, is now available in the Amazon Kindle Store

It will also soon be available in the Apple iBooks Store as well as in this website’s store.

Support us by buying a copy of any of our books, or subscribe – as we will be offering the books as part of our subscription package.

Logistics robots: The way you move

bmw-i3-i8

As Joni Mitchell once sang, and Janet Jackson reiterated, “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone”.

So it was when Amazon bought Kiva Systems in 2012 for a chart-topping $775 million. Now one of the world’s largest online retailers, Amazon is also growing its logistics business, with 30,000 Kiva robots working away at its warehouses all over the world.

At the time of the Amazon purchase, Kiva had assured its customers that it would continue to sell its robots to outside companies, but it didn’t happen.

Not only has Amazon utilised all of the autonomous warehouse vehicles Kiva has produced, it has renamed the company Amazon Robotics.  Continue reading Logistics robots: The way you move

Don’t forget our new ebook – Robotics and Automation Industry Thought Leaders – is out now

robotics and automation industry thought leaders

Our new ebook, Robotics and Automation Industry Thought Leaders, is out now.

Featuring a selection of the best interviews from RoboticsAndAutomationNews.com, the epublication makes the perfect gift for your entire social network.

Now available in digital form on Apple iBooks Store, Amazon, and all good online outlets.

Amazon to open logistics centre filled with robot workers

amazon robotics

Amazon is growing its UK fulfilment centre network as it expands to meet customer demand, increases its product selection and supports more third party Marketplace sellers with Fulfilment by Amazon. 

The fulfilment centre will be Amazon’s 13th in the UK and will be equipped with advanced Amazon Robotics technology.

Amazon says its new fulfilment centre in Tilbury, Essex, will open in 2017, and create more than 1,500 new permanent jobs for humans next year. This is in addition to the 3,500 other humans the company already employs in the UK. The new centre will also be filled with autonomous logistics robots.  Continue reading Amazon to open logistics centre filled with robot workers

Locus Robotics prepares to transform logistics industry with new automation system

locus-robot

Automation in logistics is not new, having first emerged some 30 years ago, but back then it wasn’t as widely utilised as one might imagine, probably because of the large investment required.

But even if you could afford it back then, nowadays with the new robotics and automation technologies available, what can be done with a logistics centre is way beyond what was possible in the past.

Estimates vary on how much more efficient an intelligent warehouse can be, but it’s generally accepted that the savings in costs and time which can be achieved by using robots and automated systems are significant. Continue reading Locus Robotics prepares to transform logistics industry with new automation system