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Amazon creates a $1bn fund to develop robot warehouse workers and minimize injuries

Amazon will spend a billion dollars to develop and fine-tune robots and technologies that will work in its warehouses. The Amazon Industrial Innovation Fund will fuel several innovations currently in development. The primary goal might not be to increase automation and replace human workers, but instead, to assist humans and ensure injuries in Amazon warehouses reduce.

Amazon has announced the creation of the Amazon Industrial Innovation Fund (AIIF). The eCommerce giant will finance the entire fund using its own money. If the company’s financial health is taken into consideration, the newly created fund can be bankrolled with just 11 days of Amazon’s $33 billion annual profit from 2021.

Some of the prominent investments through the AIIF are as follows:

  • Agility Robotics: Company is developing a bipedal robot dubbed Digit to replace larger robots that can't work within human-sized confines "so that machines can assist people wherever they are."
  • BionicHIVE: Israeli startup working on autonomous robots that can climb warehouse shelves to retrieve inaccessible stock with "floor to ceiling functionality."
  • Mantis Robotics: Company is building a robotic arm with tactile feedback capabilities that can be used to work alongside humans.
  • Modjoul: A health and biomechanics software company developing tech that alerts wearers when they may be doing something that could cause an injury. The startup’s primary focus is musculoskeletal issues. Needless to add, this has been one of Amazon fulfillment workers' most common complaints.
  • Vimaan: Working on computer-vision technology to improve inventory management.

Amazon is interested in exploring, discovering, and funding startups that address the company’s challenges, indicated Amazon VP of worldwide corporate development, Alex Ceballos Encarnacion:

We see an opportunity to look beyond our own experience and empower companies that are developing emerging technologies in customer fulfillment operations, logistics, and the supply chain.

Besides the announcement of the fund and the few startups that will be part of the same, Amazon hasn’t offered any specific details. However, it appears the AIIF could be a response or result of Amazon’s worker unionizing. Additionally, a recent report has claimed Amazon workers suffer higher rates of injury.

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