Amazon's Engineers Are Building Robots In Their Garages

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: The next generation of Amazon's Scout bots -- the fully-electric autonomous delivery devices the company is hoping to deploy soon -- is currently being designed and built by a team of mechanical engineers in Seattle, and not in the most orthodox of settings. Instead of working in sleek labs, Amazon's engineers have effectively resorted to re-arranging their homes and garages to accommodate the development of the sophisticated piece of technology the Scout bot is promising to be. The cooler-sized bot is already deployed in a handful of US cities where it is being tested, albeit always accompanied by a human. And to make sure that Scout bots ever reach the next stage of development, Amazon's team had to work their way around the new restrictions suddenly imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, engineers need a lot more than a decent internet connection to be able to work remotely. In early March, therefore, Seattle-based Amazon mechanical engineer Jeff Gorges transformed his garage into an R&D lab of motors and wheels in anticipation of office closures. Since then, Gorges has been iterating the bot from his garage workbench, testing various new features by driving the device around his patio. The new Scout bot has now been assembled and debugged by Gorges, all from the comfort from his own home. Amazon's Canvas robotics team, which works on small autonomous carts that use spatial AI to move items through the company's fulfillment centers, moved their testing and manufacturing equipment from their office and lab space to several team members' homes. "With the new tools set up in their apartment living rooms, hardware engineers were able to build and assemble the sub-components for the carts, and then to pass the prototypes onto an R&D technician's home, who set up test and safety systems from his garage," reports ZDNet. "The robots were then sent to a computer vision scientist who worked on calibrating the devices' cameras by reconstructing the carts' future surroundings in the fulfillment center in 3D. All in all, six robots circulated through seven team members home, with precautions taken to disinfect the devices on each transition." Read more of this story at Slashdot.
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