Last week Amazon, the online retailer, announced it was buying a robot maker called Kiva Systems for $775 million in cash. Before you get excited that Amazon may offer a robot that can tuck you into bed at night and read Kindle books to you, this isn’t that kind of robot company. Instead, Kiva Systems’ orange robots are designed to move around warehouses and stock shelves.
Or, as the company says on its Web site, using “hundreds of autonomous mobile robots,” Kiva Systems “enables extremely fast cycle times with reduced labor requirements.”
In other words, these robots will most likely replace human workers in Amazon’s warehouses.
Robots have been in factories for decades. But increasingly we will see them out in the open. Already little ones — toys, really — sweep floors. But they are getting better at doing what we do. Soon, if Google’s efforts to create driverless cars are successful, cab drivers, cross-country truckers and even ambulance drivers could be out of a job, replaced by a computer in the driver’s seat.
We are starting to see robots on the battlefield. We could eventually have robot police officers and firefighters, robotic guides, robot doctors, maybe even robotic journalists.
Time to panic?