In March, Amazon, the big e-commerce giant, tested a six-wheeled robot in North of Seattle. The robot popularly known as Scout comes with Amazon Prime logo was moving in the streets, while the company representative was observing the machine delivering orders to real-time costumers.
Amazon with the help of collected images and videos created a virtual copy of a neighbourhood where a number of digital clones are slowly moving through the imaginary streets. The vast retail business and cloud computing of the e-commerce giant has helped it to collect data that can be used with almost the entire cloud-computing platform. The technology can create a duplicate copy of driveways within centimetres and textures that are similar to asphalt in many aspects.
The artificial suburb allows the company to test many of its robots in various weather conditions and other real-time situations. The real looking suburb helps in real time testing without disturbing other people who would consider the complete process a nuisance. These robots are tested 24/7 to see their efficiency.
The complete project has many similarities with WayMo and other automobile companies that are working on cars without drivers. These companies have made huge investments in simulation to test the vehicles on real roads.
Amazon wants Scouts to deliver more packages efficiently, on time and with any mistake. The company claims to provide free delivery service to its customers in specific countries like the United States of America. In the first part of the year, the e-commerce company has tested six robots in Snohomish County. The company has now increased the number of Scouts delivering parcels but does not disclose in which area this is happening. People in Silver Fir have posted pictures of Scout in the streets of the place that has a population of 21,000. In the latter part of the year, the governor of Washington has signed a bill to regulate delivery by robots, but with restricted speed and weight. The bill also included a clause, which bans the robots to use jaywalking.
Amazon’s mapping and simulation technology can be used to deploy robots in new neighbourhoods where they can be used for the common public, not before testing them in simulated streets. The company’s management says that Scouts are well trained in the artificial streets such that when they come to the real street, they would seem like moved around and are aware of each house and corner.
Amazon is relatively new to the field of using robots for delivery. Few companies have used the machines for delivering food in 2017. None of the companies has claimed that the uses of these artificial human beings are profitable. Most of the companies have their representatives watch the work of robots and take control whenever required. They also help in the unloading of packages at customer’s homes.
Amazon has made huge investments in this particular project that sets it apart from its counterparts. If the project can be used on a large scale then it becomes a part of the fleet that includes 40 aircraft and 30,000 delivery vans. This company has a history of using robots in their field of service. More than 200,000 robots are used in activities like moving shelves, loading and unloading of pallets, sort packages and other tasks.
Using Scout on a large scale has many challenges to face, as real-time challenges are different from the simulated ones.
The fake world created by Amazon through simulation may be quite close to the actual place, but has few glitches that can be ignored since the algorithms to train robots is very accurate and based on real-world data.
Scout’s system has software that is capable of labelling pixel images from robot’s cameras as grass, sidewalk, road or other features. The robot has cleared the accuracy test as well that could help Scout understand the real world better as the tests were a combination of real and simulated data.
The algorithms used for Scout are to explore more options for controlling the robotic machine through a technique called reinforcement learning. This technique would be fruitful for Amazon if it finds itself successful in manipulating objects through trial and error techniques. This company used simulations, which were not very useful, so they started using new technique generative adversarial networks.
The company plans to launch a hundred per cent autonomous robots that at times can. Call company representatives for help. The robot-to-human ratio makes it a practical option for delivery. The profitability will depend on financial costs and the payoff for robot package hauling. As of now, Scout is being used in suburbs for deliveries. Experts suggest that it could be economical if they are used in urban areas, as the drop-offs could be closer. The robot can travel miles in a single charge, and mainly dependent on terrains and the weight it is carrying.