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The Wall Street Journal has a story about how "for decades, one of the hardest problems for robot developers to crack has been something seemingly mundane: how to replicate the human hand’s ability to pick up stuff.

" has just come a lot closer to achieving this elusive goal, with a leap in its automation prowess that promises far-reaching effects for its huge workforce and its future growth ambitions.

"The tech giant last month unveiled a collection of new robots, one of which is suited to replacing humans in the most common job at Amazon – picking up items and placing them elsewhere. The linchpin of this new kind of automation is a robot arm – appropriately named Sparrow after the tenacious, pervasive bird – that combines advanced artificial intelligence, a variety of grippers, and the speed and precision that is now standard in off-the-shelf industrial robotic arms."

The Journal makes the point that the unveiling happened even as Amazon was announcing layoffs and cost-cutting … but that the advances that Amazon is making when it comes to robotics may actually be instrumental in helping it reduce head counts and save money in the long term.

You can read the Journal piece here.