Amazon shows how it's building robot prototypes from home

The robot prototypes were worked on at seven different homes

Amazon is pulling back the cover on how its robotics team is continuing to build prototypes of autonomous carts for its fulfillment centers as the coronavirus pandemic has kept them working from home.

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The e-commerce giant, in a blog post, says six robots have been constructed after circulating through the garages and residences of seven employees in Colorado.

“Our Canvas robotics team in Boulder uses spatial artificial intelligence to create small autonomous carts that can move items through Amazon fulfillment centers to expedite the delivery of goods,” it said. “By using state-of-the-art cameras and sensors, these self-driving carts perceive their continuously changing surroundings while computer vision allows them to adapt and self-direct their movement.”

An Amazon employee turned his garage into a workstation where the robots' cameras could be fine-tuned. (Amazon)

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The company says in March, staff moved testing and manufacturing equipment from an office and lab space to their homes in coordination with a stay-at-home order issued by the city.

“Then the magic really began, enabling them to build, test, calibrate, and validate fully functioning prototypes of our next generation autonomous carts from home,” it added.

Amazon says one of its employees assembled a prototype in his garage in front of his three children.

The robot was then sent to a different worker’s home for the implementation and testing of its safety systems, before ending up at another property where a computer vision scientist fine-tuned its cameras.

Amazon says employees were able to complete the work in front of their children. (Amazon)

“Here, Fernando Nobre implemented the technical processes to calibrate the camera systems to enable a 3D reconstruction of the carts' surroundings -- this way the cart could find its own path among conveyors, pallets of products and constantly moving equipment and people,” Amazon said in the blog post.

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The robots and their components went through a disinfection process each time they were shuttled between the homes.

“As our autonomous carts become more common across Amazon Operations, we will look back and remember the early innovations that came to life through these employees and their commitment to continue inventing in their Colorado garages,” Amazon says.

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