March 21, 2012

Amazon buys robot army for robot apocalypse

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In an interesting turn of events, Amazon has acquired its very own army of droids.

Robert Cyran reports on Slate that Amazon has bought Kiva systems, a manufacturer of bright orange shipping robots for $775 million.  The robots reduce shipping costs.  Less workers need to be hired and they work fast.  Perhaps a good move for a company that, according to Cyran, had a margin of less than 2% last year.

Still, Cyran asks,

“Is Amazon hedging itself against the rise of the machines? That’s one way to explain the kooky $775 million purchase of Kiva Systems. Either that or the online retailing giant’s founder Jeff Bezos has a robot fetish. It’s not clear what the deal offers Amazon shareholders. Automating Amazon’s warehouses makes sense. But buying Kiva droids, rather than their maker, seems the more rational approach.”

Of course, there are probably arguments to be made for the efficiancy of an electronic workforce.  According to Hiawatha Bray of The Boston Globe,

“Privately held Kiva makes warehouse robots designed for e-commerce and mail-order companies like Amazon, which ship millions of items to consumers. When an order comes in, a robot, which can handle a load of 3,000 pounds, is sent to the shelf holding the item. It lifts the entire shelf and carries it to a work station, where a human worker picks out the item and packs it for shipment to a customer. The robot returns the shelf to its original location, then awaits the next order.”

Still, it’s an odd move.  Just thought the pesky big-six publishers and IPG should know Bezos now has a robot army at his disposal.

Ariel Bogle is a former publicist at Melville House.

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