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Archives for July 2017

Star Wars droids inspired Amazon robot fleet

By Ben Ames | July 17, 2017 | 7:32 PM

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Retailing behemoth Amazon.com Inc. is notoriously secretive with reporters about revealing details of its activities. The press is always caught by surprise, whether the Seattle-based company has filed papers as a “transportation service provider,” registered a patent for floating warehouse blimps, or acquired Whole Foods Market.

A chink appeared in that armor, however, at a small technology conference held today at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The momentous event occurred during a panel session called “Robots at Amazon” at the TechCrunch Sessions: Robotics conference.

Tye Brady, the chief technologist at Amazon Robotics (the former Kiva Systems), was fielding softball questions from the moderator when the singular exchange occurred. Asked whether he’d had a robotic inspiration as a kid, he pierced his company’s veil of secrecy and answered straight up: “R2-D2.”

“Do you remember the scene in Star Wars 4—the original—when Luke first meets R2-D2 and C-3PO?” Brady asked the audience. “Luke Skywalker was a farmer, living with his foster parents, and he was looking for a robot that would help him farm better and help him care for his family.”

The audience of technology fans applauded the reference to the iconic sci-fi flick now known as “Star Wars Epidsode IV—A New Hope,” and laughed when Brady quipped about an ancillary benefit of developing an interest in robotics at a young age: “He had to do a deal to find them, but he chose R2-D2 and C-3PO. And the next thing you know, he’s a Jedi!”

The flow of free information did not last long, however. When an audience member subsequently asked when Amazon robotics would start selling consumer products, Brady laughed out loud and reverted to the familiar corporate boilerplate: “We have a long-standing practice that we don’t reveal any of our future roadmap. But we will always innovate in any way that the customer sees fit.”

Even a Jedi knight wouldn’t be able to parse any revealing details from that response.

The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

Thoughts from our editors.



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