Amazon debuts a pair of new warehouse robots

Amazon kicked off its first re:MARS conference with some ringers last night, bringing out Robert Downey Jr., Boston Dynamics’ Marc Raibert and Disney Research’s Morgan Pope and Tony Dohl during the opening keynote. This morning’s big event puts the focus back on its own offerings — namely the work the company’s been doing in robotics.

Amazon Robotics VP Brad Porter took to the stage to showcase a pair of new robots designed to accelerate automation in the company’s fulfillment centers. Xanthus represents a major redesign of the company’s primary robots, which have been core to its strategy since its 2012 acquisition of Kiva Systems.

Modularity is the key here, as with competitors like Fetch. The drive foundation gives the in-house robotics team the ability to develop customized robotics for different warehouse takes, all with the same basic base system. Amazon says it will be showcasing some of the offerings this week at the show in Vegas, including the Xanthus Sort Bot and Xanthus Tote Mover.

More information on those later, no doubt, but all appear to be focused on different aspects of the same task: moving deliveries around the fulfillment center. Earlier in the year, the company stated that it has already deployed north of 100,000 robotic systems in more than 25 fulfillment centers across the U.S., a key part of the retail giant’s push toward even faster delivery times. These days, it’s focused on single-day delivery for most packages.

Today, the company says it has expanded to 200,000 robotic drive robots internationally. That figure includes both in-house and third-party systems.

Also new is the Pegasus system. The robot will operate in a similar capacity as the Kiva robotic drives, which currently navigate around a fenced-in “grid,” sporting large shelving pods. This robot, however, is is designed to sort and move individual packages. The system has already deployed 800 Pegasus units in some of Amazon’s fulfillment centers.

The company believes the single-package delivery system will further efficiency in the warehouse.

“We are always testing and trialing new solutions and robotics that enhance the safety, quality, delivery speed and overall efficiency of our operations,” a spokesperson for the company said in a statement issued at the event. “Our new Pegasus drive units help to reduce sort errors, minimize damage, and speed up delivery times. The Xanthus family of drives brings an innovative design, enabling engineers to develop a portfolio of operational solutions, all off the same hardware base through the addition of new functional attachments. We believe that adding robotics and new technologies to our operations network will continue improve the associate and customer experience.”