These Speedy Packing Robots Ship Your Online Purchases Faster Than Ever

Illustration for article titled These Speedy Packing Robots Ship Your Online Purchases Faster Than Ever

Like C-3PO and R2-D2, some robot pairs are a match made in mechanized heaven. Now, a new team, Fetch and Freight, can eliminate much of the efficiency-botching human labor from warehouses, getting that Amazon shipment to your door faster than ever.


It’s a system San Jose-based Fetch Robotics developed to help retailers be faster and more agile in their deliveries. Companies are adapting as online buying options like Amazon Prime, Google Express, and eBay Now have gotten more popular.

Fetch, the taller of the two, grabs goods with its product-picking arm and dumps ‘em in Freight, the short, squat, bin bot that follows Fetch around and then scuttles items to the shipping area at speeds maxing out at three meters per second.

The duo can both be built upon the open source robot operating system, ROS. They work alongside human counterparts, eliminating the fleshbags’ more mundane, time-sucking tasks like packing for delivery. And when they need juicing up, they cruise back to their charging stations automatically.

But Fetch’s telescoping spine can only reach about five feet, and its back-drivable 7DOF arm can only lift about 13 pounds. Amazon, for example, already has robots of its own in its warehouses, and are far heavier lifters.

But what F&F lack in cargo-heaving brawn they make up for in adorable sidekick helpfulness. Plus, these guys (scheduled to ship later this year) can be plopped in any ol’ warehouse, unlike Amazon’s robot-filled ones, which require special shelving and infrastructure.


Either way, more robots are going to staff warehouses in the near future: E-commerce sales hit over $300 billion last year, a 15 percent spike from 2013. The battle between Fetch and Freight versus brick and mortar has only just begun.

[IEEE Spectrum]

Image credit: Fetch Robotics




It’s an interesting world we live in where the population is continually increasing at enormous rates around the world, yet we are constantly looking for ways to automate everything, thus reducing the amount of jobs available.