Amazon’s latest forays into robotics have left me thoroughly impressed. Take a look at this awesome presentation of one of the company’s most modern order fulfillment centers:
Now combine this with the company’s obvious direction of turning into a delivery behemoth. Amazon is rather coy about this aspect, but why else would it be buying up planes^ and making airport^ investments^? This is only the beginning I believe. I see the company making use of robotic planes and a massive fleet of self-driving trucks in the near future.
I don’t really think that delivery via aerial drones will make it past the marketing gimmick stage. At most, it will perhaps become some sort of exclusive service – expensive and inefficient, at least for the customer. In any case, Amazon is well positioned to become a “full stack retailer” – a seller that controls the entire distribution chain. And there are signs that “retailer” is not enough.
Given the company’s (mostly) successful ventures with producing television and electronics, I wouldn’t be surprised if it begins buying up farms in becoming a full stack grocer as well. Then, I would expect Amazon to bring its robotics expertise into automated farming. There already have been plenty of experiments in that field.
Last but not least, check out this fully automated experimental grocery shop where there are no human employees (to see at least):
To be honest though, I’m not so sure if I like this last one. This fully robotic retail world might rob some people of even the little human interaction they get when they go into a shop. We might be taking some things a bit too far. But then again, shops might soon entirely cease to exist. I’m quite sure Amazon’s vision of the future is to remove all “wasted” shelf space and move everything online. And for those who wish to actually see the groceries they’ll buy, there’ll probably be a virtual reality shop in some years.
I am also slightly worried about the privacy aspects of some of the company’s ventures. Not only about these shops where electronic eyes watch everybody, but also cloud services such as Alexa^ that create and memorize accurate snapshots of the customer’s preferences and even personality. It’s a well-known strategy to bait people into accepting various losses of rights under the guise of introducing “much-needed features”. But let’s wish for the best and have faith in society’s ability to self-regulate and evolve.