Insight Bite: Amazon Renews Robot-human Assembly Line with Canvas Deal

The robotics and AI revolution is in full swing in Amazon’s warehouses, and the retail giant has announced the purchase of yet another robotics company – Colorado-based startup Canvas Technology.

As the latest in a string of acquisitions designed to put Amazon at the forefront of automation, Canvas joins Kiva – a company manufacturing small orange robots to autonomously carry items round warehouses, AI-robotics company Embodied, and urban delivery robot manufacturers Dispatch.

These previous deals aided Amazon in the endless improvement of its order fulfilment systems, creating greater efficiency by improving navigation and safety in and outside the warehouse. Canvas’s tech, which uses spatial AI to enable mobile robots to navigate safely around people in dynamic environments, is expected to further improve safety in the human-robot supply chain.

The combination of 3D imaging and proprietary mapping software allows these Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) to locate themselves on a shared map that is continuously updated, allowing the carts to effectively act as self-driving vehicles within the warehouse.

The same technology is also expected to be put to use developing outdoor delivery applications like Scout, which rolled out for testing in January. But the goal, according to an Amazon spokesperson, is not to replace people, and instead to help them work together more effectively:

“Canvas and Amazon share a common vision for a future where people work alongside robotics to further improve safety and the workplace experience,” said Amazon in a statement. “We look forward to working with Canvas Technology’s fantastic team to keep inventing for customers.”

Enabling rapid reductions in costs, as well as dramatic increases in performance, demand for robotics and automation technologies is increasing –  a trend that is driving an enormous wave of activity in both research and development (R&D) and mergers and acquisitions (M&A).

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