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Bloomberg reports that "Amazon, which churns through hourly workers at a brisk pace, has long expected to one day run out of warm bodies for its US fulfillment centers - an existential problem for an enterprise that made its name providing quick, reliable delivery. While the warehouses are partly automated, Amazon still relies on hundreds of thousands of people working in concert with the machines."

But to some extent, the time has come.

"Amazon appears to have solved the problem with a highly automated system featuring a yellow robotic arm that the company says can pick up millions of types of products without crushing or dropping them. The new bot’s name is Sparrow.

"Amazon hasn’t said precisely how Sparrow and its machine cousins will revolutionize its operations. But patent filings, corporate blog posts and executive comments reveal a roadmap of the company’s ambitions (see diagram, below). Robots will stow and retrieve individual items, move packaged boxes into carts for shipment and pilot those carts to waiting trucks—labor now handled mostly by people.

"The technology is still buggy, and full deployment will likely take years. But the automated system promises to fundamentally reshape Amazon, which has grown into the second-largest private US employer behind Walmart Inc., and in many towns is both the biggest employer and the default option for workers who have few marketable skills or were laid off from another job."

You can read the entire story here.