Amazon’s robotics group submitted an FCC filing earlier this week that contains images of a device that could potentially be used to enhance the safety of its warehouse robots.
The filing shows a weird-looking device that appears to have a built-in Ethernet connection and which Amazon describes as a “low power communication device transmitter” that operates below the 1GHz frequency. Just by the looks of it, you would think it’s some kind of a wireless router that transmits data through its warehouse or data center.
The filing calls it a “Drive Unit Slow Radio” designed for use in the “Atlas S drive unit” product line.
While it’s not entirely clear what these devices are meant for, and Amazon clearly states in the filing that it’s not intended to be sold to the “general end users” directly, the filing could hint at Amazon’s continuing to ramp up its effort to create a safer warehouse environment by using more unmanned bots.
It’s possible that the product is related to the “proximity sensing system” mentioned in an earlier filing spotted in November. The filing in November showed Amazon was working on a new system that would make it safer to operate its warehouse robots that pick up and move products within the warehouse.
Here are some of the pictures of the mysterious device:
The filing also includes photos that shows the device being tested in a closed environment, possibly to evaluate its radiolocation technology.
There’s been some concerns over the working conditions at Amazon’s warehouses lately, but also over the general use of robots at factories, as one of the first high-profile robot-related casualties was founded at a Volkswagon factory last July.
Amazon said previously that it already uses 30,000 Kiva robots at its warehouses, and plans to expand the use of it going forward. Kiva is the robot maker Amazon bought for $775 million in 2012.
In August 2015, Amazon officially turned Kiva’s efforts into a new, broader business called Amazon Robotics.
Amazon’s robots are currently used only for product-hauling purposes around Amazon’s warehouses, but the company continues invest in this area, from computer vision to machine learning, in hopes of eventually making robots to actually pick up and package customer orders. As the company keeps expanding the use of robots, safety devices like this will only become more important.
We reached out to Amazon for comment, and will update if we hear back.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through hispersonal investment company Bezos Expeditions.
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