Could Robots Take Warehouse Jobs?

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California startup Fetch Robotics has recently announced the creation of a pair of robots designed to make product packaging and shipping more efficient. Named Fetch and Freight, the robots are small enough to be used in warehouses that may not be able to be optimized for larger systems. While some warehouses may need to be slightly retrofitted to utilize the robots, their size removes the need for a complete technological overhaul.

Once it has taken the box from the shelf, Fetch passes the product to Freight.
Once it has taken the box from the shelf, Fetch passes the product to Freight.

Fetch is approximately three and a half feet tall and features a single arm with two fingers. The arm extends to grab boxes and products from warehouse shelves. Fetch can extend its spine to stand a full four feet, 10 inches tall, and its depth camera allows it to identify boxes and the spaces between them on shelves. Once it has taken the box from the shelf, Fetch passes the product to Freight.

Freight is fitted with a collection bin, and takes the products to shipping stations. While Fetch is also fitted with a wheeled base, Freight is better for distributing products, as its lower center of gravity allows it to travel at higher speeds.

The Fetch robot is able to photograph and take temperature readings of objects as it picks them up, making it ideal for quality control in pharmaceutical manufacturing. During emergency room visits in 2010, over 271.4 million prescriptions were ordered by doctors, nurses, and pharmacists, so any temperature fluctuations in the manufacturing process would have an enormous impact on the public. The robots are even able to operate in the dark or in uncomfortable temperatures, saving facilities from paying high costs of operation if they switch to an all-robot staff.

Both robots are able to follow humans around by focusing on their legs, and they can even move around people in narrow hallways. Freight and Fetch are able to operate autonomously, as well, though they can be controlled by smartphones and tablets if it is more convenient to do so. Each system of robots will be tailored to clients’ needs, so Fetch Robotics is currently unable to offer pricing quotes.

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