Amazon unveiled its new ‘Sparrow’ sorting robot that could soon replace some human workers in its warehouses.
The robot is designed to identify and sort specific products along Amazon’s fulfillment line, a task that previously could only be done by humans.
“Sparrow is the first robotic system in our warehouses that can detect, select, and handle individual products in our inventory,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement alongside the product’s debut during Amazon’s Delivering The Future conference near Boston on Thursday.
Warehouse workers fear the robots will make them obsolete, with one telling Insider that Sparrow “will take my job.”
“You can’t compete with the robots. They want you to compete with the robots. They want all the employees to compete with them. But who can win against a robot?” a former Amazon warehouse worker, Mohamed Mire Mohamed, told the publication.
The robot arm is currently active in one warehouse in Texas for testing, but the company plans to roll it nationwide as soon as next year.
Sparrow is programmed with AI that can detect the difference between products based on shape and size. It can then use its suction cup hand to pick up and sort items based on the category of the product or its intended shipping destination.
In a patent filed by the company in 2020, Amazon said Sparrow is designed to replace human workers who “pick items from inventory, place items in totes, remove items from totes, place items into bins, remove items from bins, place items into boxes for shipping.”
Amazon has pushed back against fears that Sparrow could take people’s jobs.
The company said the robot is designed to work with employees, not against them, to “take on repetitive tasks, enabling our employees to focus their time and energy on other things.”
Amazon employs over 750,000 people in U.S. warehouses, many in the sorting roles Sparrow will automate.