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What Exactly Did Amazon Purchase in KIVA?

by Sean P. Aune | March 25, 2012March 25, 2012 6:00 am PDT

Early last week Amazon announced that it had purchased KIVA Systems for $775 million.  What exactly does the company do that would command such a high price?  Think “robots.”  Lots and lots of little orange robots.

As you can see in the video above from a Wired conference last year, KIVA producers inventory robots that make it so no one has to walk through a warehouse picking orders: The packer stands in one place, the inventory pods are brought to them, a laser points to the item, the packer scans it to double check and then a light flashes telling them what container to put it in.  After that, the video shows what the little robot does to complete its mission.

The basic KIVA robot measures 2 feet by 2.5 feet, and one foot high and is capable of lifting 1,000 pounds.  Larger robots are available that are capable of lifting pallets of up to 3,000 pounds.

Although KIVA may not be a household name, the system has caught the attention of major retailers and is currently in use by companies such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Staples, The Gap, Diapers.com and more.

As Amazon already has multiple warehouses built under the traditional methods of order picking and shipping, there is no word on if they will be adopting the technology for use themselves.  Completely retooling its facilites to work under this system would be quite the expense, so they may just be looking to sell the technology to other online retailers as is already done.

If there is anything that screams, “we’re living in the future,” it’s robots.  And in that realm, the little KIVA System robots sure make you think Rosie the Maid can’t be all that far away.

 


Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...

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