Amanda Taillon's job is to enter a robot-only area to fix problems in one of Amazon's warehouses in the state of Connecticut. She uses a belt that works like a superhero's force field. It can command the nearest robots to stop and the others to slow down or change their paths. Taillon said that she has gotten used to working with robots.
She described how she felt when first working with them. "When you're out there, and you can hear them moving around, but you can't see them, it's like, 'Where do they come from and where are they going to?'", she said. "It's a little nerve-racking at first."
Critics say that this kind of human-machine cooperation has its problems. They say that keeping up with the pace of the new technology is hurting human workers' health and confidence. Beth Gutelius, a researcher, said human burnout is a problem in warehouses where robotics and artificial intelligence, or AI software are being used. She said that is because the robots add more work and increase the pressure on workers to speed up their performance.
Recently, reporters investigated injury rates at Amazon warehouses. They found that robotic warehouses reported more injuries than those without the machines. They also found that the rate of serious injuries was more than two times the warehousing industry average.
Amazon, however, says that it is misleading to compare its rate with other companies.
And the increased use of robots and AI is changing warehouse work in a way that the head of Amazon Robotics says can "extend human capability". The idea is that robots can help people to do what they are best at: problem solving. Tye Brady, a technologist in Amazon, said having people and robots work together permits the company to offer lower prices. Brady said worker safety remains very important.
Robots have become common in warehouses across America. Manufacturers of robots say the machines can do the most repetitive and difficult jobs. But critics warn that they are also creating new forms of stress and even injuries. What do you think?
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