Amazon, MIT Studying How Robots Are Impacting Jobs

The two have partnered to broaden understanding of how automation technologies are impacting work, and how the public perceives these tools

Scarlett Evans, Assistant Editor, IoT World Today

October 26, 2023

2 Min Read
Amazon warehouse robot

Amazon is partnering with MIT to study the impact of automation on workforces, as well as assess public opinion around emerging technologies such as robotics.

Also under the partnership, Amazon will support the expansion of MIT’s automation clinic, established to help engineers understand the impact automation technologies such as robotics and AI are having on businesses.

MIT is also set to lead a study, alongside polling research firm Ipsos, on public and employee sentiment around robotic and AI deployment in industrial settings.

Amazon said it “hope[s] to gain more insight into how we can develop robotics that enhance the employee experience and safety across our operations network while investing in training for employees that can help them advance their career by working with new technology,” according to a company statement.

The partnership comes as Amazon is looking to ramp up automation technologies across its operations. Amazon recently announced the rollout of fulfillment center robots, Sequoia and Digit, at facilities in Houston, Texas and Sumner, Washington.

Amazon currently has more than 750,000 warehouse robots working alongside its human employees. As this figure is set to rise, Amazon is looking to identify best practices to integrate these automation solutions into existing operations, from a worker satisfaction perspective as well as for safety and productivity reasons.

Related:MIT Automated Co-Pilot Designed for Safer Flights

“We don’t think it's practical to build technology where customers can’t benefit from all the great things people do well,” said Tye Brady, chief technologist at Amazon Robotics. “The investments we are making in robotics start with the principle of how these systems can work collaboratively alongside employees and that’s how we are building for the long term. Our vision is to design solutions where we can extend human capabilities and drive the best results.”

The work builds on MIT’s previous “Work of the Future” initiative, which examined the potential of automation technologies to create better jobs for humans.

“The mental model we hold of robots – for example, as tools or as collaborators – influences how we expect to work with them,” said Julie Shah, MIT professor of aeronautics and astronautics. “Our research shows that the best way to optimize human-robot team performance is to develop robots that are active collaborators in helping a human to learn about their capabilities, limitations, and behaviors.”

About the Author(s)

Scarlett Evans

Assistant Editor, IoT World Today

Scarlett Evans is the assistant editor for IoT World Today, with a particular focus on robotics and smart city technologies. Scarlett has previous experience in minerals and resources with Mine Australia, Mine Technology and Power Technology. She joined Informa in April 2022.

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