Amazon’s utilization of robots in their warehouses, exemplified by their robot named Hercules, is a testament to the company’s ongoing efforts to streamline and optimize their logistical operations. With a reported fleet of over 750,000 robots, the primary function of these robots is to facilitate the efficient management of goods stored in four-sided shelves called pods. Hercules operates much like a robotic forklift, albeit on a smaller and more agile scale, by sliding underneath the pods to lift and relocate them. Interestingly, the robots are designed to minimize the need for rotating shelves, implementing a unique strategy where Hercules sets down the pod, rotates, and then picks it back up to change direction.
One key feature of the system is its centralized control, but Hercules itself navigates autonomously within the warehouse environment. This autonomy is made possible through a combination of depth-sensing cameras and a grid of navigation markers on the floor throughout the facility. Additionally, Hercules can wirelessly detect and communicate with nearby human-worn vests and other robots that may be outside its direct line of sight. The result is a system where the product shelves effectively come to the human workers, eliminating the need for employees to traverse aisles of shelves manually. This approach allows for dynamic shelf organization, higher density storage, and optimized access for the robots, with the added flexibility of non-fixed shelf layouts and reduced walking space requirements.
Check out our robotics section in PiShop where we supply parts and kits for educational or daily needs concerning robots and don’t forget to squeeze in a little automation using our Raspberry Pi 4s and Raspberry Pi Picos.