Amazon has launched its quest to find robotics experts to create a robot fit for use in its automated fulfilment centres worldwide.
16 teams have been selected as finalists for the third annual Amazon Robotics Challenge in Japan in July, with the lucky winners set to receive $250,000 (£193,850) and the prestige of their robot being introduced in the centres to help pick and pack products for the company’s millions of customers worldwide.
Amazon said it will judge robots are judged on their ability to read orders, fill those orders, detect errors, fix problems with orders and successfully sort them for sending to customers, but it’s likely their talents to preserve the condition of packages prepared for dispatch will also be a pretty important part of the robot’s role.
The robots will need to complete these tasks in a set time frame, because speed is of the essence when you’re as large as Amazon, with the need to pick and pack thousands of deliveries every single day.
Amazon said it already has more than 80,000 robots working in its warehouses but there’s always room for improvement, it would seem. The existing robots use wheeled systems to move around the vast warehouses, but it’s not the most efficient or space-saving way to run a fulfillment centre, Amazon says.
“Commercially viable automated picking in unstructured environments still remains a difficult challenge,” it explained.
This year’s winner will have to be seriously impressive to keep up with last year’s Dutch winner, which featured an agile “2-fingered grip” and the ability to pack orders and restock the shelves.
Entrants for this year’s competition include robotics experts from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton and Carnegie Mellon University.