How Amazon and Walmart are putting robots to work behind the scenes

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This week Brian Heater, fresh off a trip to Pittsburgh to visit a handful of robotics companies, led a discussion about the current state of robotics and how startups are integrating the machines into our lives. When it comes to our home lives, we really only have the Roomba, that circular disc that moves about our floors on its own sweeping up the dust and dirt. In fact, the jobs being performed behind the scenes are the ones robots are digging into.

Obviously we’ve got some fairly unrealistic expectations about robotics that have been served up to us by sci-fi and things like that. And when we take away the state of consumer robotics and household robotics, the best we can do at the moment right now is the Roomba. Which is obviously quite far away from being Rosie the Robot idea that has been promised to us since the 1960s.The rub of all this, however, is that we tend to not actually see them in action. In automation, there’s a concept of three Ds, which are dull, dirty and dangerous. So they’re the jobs that these robotics are basically designed to adopt.

He also touches upon the fear of robots taking our jobs. What he found is that, no, you don’t have anything to fear — unless you’re an elevator operator, he says, and even that’s not across the board. But there is a political response to that by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who said at SXSW last week: “We should not be haunted by the specter of being automated out of work. We should be excited by that. But the reason that we’re not excited is that we live in a society where if you don’t have a job, you’ll have to die. And at its core, that’s the problem.”

And it’s not robotics discussion without mentioning Amazon. Heater recently visited an Amazon fulfillment center on Staten Island to give you a peek at how robots help get your packages to you on time.

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