A tiny secret in Amazon's warehouses: Barcodes everywhere

12:31 AM

Yesterday, on CyberMonday, Amazon revealed its newest generation fulfillment center utilizing robotics to speed up order delivery times (and to reduce logistics costs) for customers. It was published as a video in BusinessWire website, with some beautiful photos of the new warehouse.

The story has had a significant impact in technology media (Wired, TechCrunch...). 
Amazon Spanish fulfillment center, in San Fernando de Henares (Madrid), probably is not equiped with so high-tech robots as the Robo-Stow, but I suppouse it is populated by hundreds of Kiva robots as the orange ones which carry shelves in this video.When I saw a video of Amazon fulfillment centers for the first time, some years ago, I was pleasantly surprised by the coordination among all the Kiva robots and the human personal in Amazon facilities. I think it is a demanding work for humans, who have to find and pick the right items in each of the fetched shelves with a very strict / limited time.Because of my research in the last months, I cannot help noticing the extensive use of codebars. 

They are everywhere:
- floor
- shelves' racks
- products 
- container boxes
- 'traveling' boxes
- packages
- ...

Beautiful and low-cost technology, that we are improving  :-)

By the way, Amazon is investing large efforts in automating the "picking" stage in their logistic pipeline. They are organizing thee first Amazon Picking Challenge at ICRA 2015. It is our goal to strengthen the ties between the industrial and academic robotic communities and promote shared and open solutions to some of the big problems in unstructured automation.

As stated in their website, this competition will challenge entrants to build their own robot hardware and software that can attempt simplified versions of the general task of picking items from shelves. The robots will be presented with a stationary lightly populated inventory shelf and be asked to pick a subset of the products and put them on a table. The challenge combines object recognition, pose recognition, grasp planning, compliant manipulation, motion planning, task planning, task execution, and error detection and recovery. There are nice prices (travel grants to ICRA) and participants have the possibility of being provided a robot to participate in the contest. 

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