The age of robots is upon us. Or at least, you might think so if you walked into one of the dozen retail warehouses currently manned by Kiva System’s robotic workers. The bots, which look a bit like a giant orange toaster, zip autonomously around the warehouse, completing orders and rearranging merchandise without any human interference, making the warehouses, by Kiva’s estimates, two to four times more efficient.
Left alone, the bots can work without light or heat. With humans, they provide random access to every item in stock. “The basic technology will be the de facto way to run a warehouse,” says the bots’ programmer. “We’ll start to see these same techniques become the de facto techniques in manufacturing.” So far the Gap, Zappos, and Staples have all joined the revolution.