Amazon Picking Challenge: The Next Step Towards Fully Robotic Warehouses
Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos is a deep believer in robotics. In 2012, Amazon acquired Kiva systems a company specialized in robotic warehouses (see Video 1). It revolutionized warehouses by introducing a large fleet of robots carrying product racks to human operators. In 2013, Amazon announced the Air Prime drone delivery system (see Video 2). The goal is to deliver parcels in less than 30 minutes using unmanned aerial robots. The company is still actively seeking other ways to increase the amount of work delegated to machines. The next frontier seems to be item picking.
A cost effective way to carry out a study of state of the art is through a contest. This is exactly the strategy adopted by Amazon. They are launching the Amazon Picking challenge, which will be held at the next ICRA 2015 conference in Seattle. The challenge organizers seem to have identified at least one candidate platform. That is the ROS-based research version of the Baxter manufacturing robot (see Video 3).
Video 1: Kiva Systems Robotic Warehouse
Video 2: Amazon Prime Air Delivery Flying Robots
Video 3: Baxter Robot