In 2012, Amazon acquired Kiva Systems — a manufacturer of robotic systems — for $775 million and transformed them into Amazon Robotics. These autonomous robots handle the picking and packaging process at Amazon's large warehouses.
First, human beings fill the shelves with items. The items don't have to be shelved in any particular order — as long as the robot knows where an item is on the shelf, it will deliver it when it's needed.
The robots will then bring the items to a different set of Amazon workers, who will grab them to place in boxes. Amazon workers used to have to roam the shelves searching for products to fill orders. Now the robots bring what is needed autonomously.
Amazon has become increasingly reliant on the Kiva robots. By the end of the third quarter of 2015, Amazon was up to 30,000 robots. They are also being used in at least 13 fulfillment centers.
The robots are about 16 inches tall and weigh almost 320 pounds. They can run at a steady 5 miles per hour and haul packages weighing up to 700 pounds.
The robots' ability to organize themselves into tight rows allows the company to fit 50% more inventory. That's profit, plain and simple.
We will look back on this someday and wonder at how crude and basic these amazing machine were. I hope there's a job for humans to do somewhere in fifty years.