We imagined we’d live in a future reality filled with mind-boggling inventions that would change our existence. Gradually our experiences began to shift, and technology infiltrated our lives, twisting and shaping each our thoughts and daily decisions. We foresaw the possibility of robots handling typical tasks, serving as personal assistants, clearing our schedules of meaningless duties. But as we near 2020 it appears as though we’ve arrived at the fanciful reality we once envisioned. 

Virtual Hoods

Amazon successfully created a digital neighborhood to test its new robots. Virtual neighborhoods are formed “using lasers, cameras, and aircraft that capture detailed scans of the area” (Wired). They’re insanely detailed, mirroring everything from cracks and dips of the sidewalk to weeds and shrubbery sprouting from a curb. 

Scouts

The robots, dubbed scouts, are programmed to practice within simulated towns, gathering enough knowledge to function effectively in the real world. After a delivery robot scores a high percentage within its simulated universe, Amazon deploys the machine into the original town the company copied. Amazon’s technology is so advanced the conglomerate is capable of building entire cities. 

Synthetic Suburb

Amazon’s principal site for testing is in Seattle, Washington. Washington’s “synthetic suburb” is complete with curbstones, driveways, identical textures, and alternating weather conditions. In support of Amazon’s industry advances, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed a bill regulating robot delivery, structuring their speed and weight, and banning the tech gadget from jaywalking. 

So what’s the problem?

Amazon isn’t the first company to venture into the robot delivery business. Other organizations have tried to implement the robotic delivery services but have yet to develop a machine that is both reliable and profitable. They’re paired with humans just in case something goes astray, so it’s hard for devices to become self-sufficient. 

Urban communities won’t experience the upgrade.

Scout is targeted towards suburbs for now given the economic issues urban areas will likely cause. With dense populations and houses positioned right next to each other,  it’d be difficult for a minibot to maneuver successfully.

Societal opinion 

The United States Postal Service conducted a report in 2018, surveying the initial response of Americans and their reactions to the robotic delivery machines. Most people were excited about the concept, focusing on the flexibility the bots will provide for package recipients. Citizens also commented on the reduced risk of injury for delivery workers but were a bit concerned about job security for current delivery men and women.

But we’re not there, yet…

Robots replacing humans has been an underlying theme in sci-fi films for years. But as art continues to imitate reality and vice versa, society creeps closer to a seemingly pre-determined fate: robot versus man. However, this digital future won’t occur just yet. CNBC reports that “the use of autonomous mobile robots… is too economically and technologically immature to be scalable in the short term, especially for independent robot delivery applications”. 

Amazon speaks

An Amazon spokeswoman reports it’s a myth that automation negatively affects job growth, citing that the company will be able to meet the demands of more customer orders, therefore, creating even more jobs. Amazon plans to hire more drivers to meet the expectations of the business.

What we gathered:

Further testing is needed to reach Amazon’s ultimate goal: more packages, more money, and quicker delivery. It’s difficult to imagine digitally created communities complete with automated robots, but the impending world of the Jetsons is upon us.

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Image Source: The Amazon Blog