FROM SOCCER BALLS TO PALLETS
Looks like Amazon is getting some robots. LOTS of robots.
The giant online retailer is acquiring Kiva Systems, a North Reading,
MA-based company that invented a revolutionary way of managing vast
warehouses by using fleets of mobile robots to sort, organize, and
transport inventory. Amazon agreed to acquire all of the outstanding
shares of Kiva for approximately US $775 million in cash. The companies
expect to close the acquisition in the second quarter of 2012.
So, what does Kiva do that got Amazon so interested? Basically, Kiva
reinvented the centuries-old warehouse business, transforming
distribution centers — which previously relied on slow-moving humans
to walk around picking and packing goods — into a buzzing hive of
super-efficient, tireless robotic workers.
"This is a great validation of the innovation model that I have been
encouraging for years as a university professor: Engage in research that
pushes the boundary of autonomous systems capabilities, without
worrying about whether it has a direct or immediate application," commented Raffaello D'Andrea, an ETH Zurich
professor and one of Kiva’s co-founders.
"The robotic aspects of Kiva Systems had their genesis in robot soccer. Many of Kiva’s key, initial technical hires
were former Cornell RoboCup team members with expertise in dynamics and control, mechanical engineering,
electrical engineering, and computer science," he said."In addition, one of Kiva’s earliest hires was a collaborator on the
interactive art installation 'The Table,' currently part of the National Gallery of Canada's permanent collection. Who
would have thought that autonomous, soccer-playing robots — or that a robotic artwork — would enable a business
like Kiva Systems?"
Yeah. Who would have thought that robot soccer would one day lead to a $700 million idea?
Photo by Joel Eden Photography/Kiva Systems.
STILL CLEANING UP
iRobot is introducing their new Scooba 390 (it’s the one in the back
of the photo). It’s a lot like its predecessor, the Scooba 380. It's actually
nothing completely new or revolutionary, but there are a few unique
features that are worth mentioning.
iRobot is highlighting several differences between the 390 and
previous Scooba models. First, the battery life is 30 percent better
thanks to "extended power life management." The 390 can clean up to
450 square feet ( 42 square meters) per run.
Next, iRobot points out that the 390 has a simplified interface
that's easier to use, and while the buttons have been labeled a bit better,
what they're really talking about is the fact that the 390 is easier to
clean and maintain. Every part that you might need to pay attention to is
now clearly marked with orange icons. iRobot's Scooba 390 is on sale
now for US $499 — the same price as the Scooba 380 that it replaces.
Continued on page 62
Cool tidbits herein provided by Evan Ackerman at www.botjunkie.com, www.robotsnob.com, www.plasticpals.com, and other places.
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