“We regularly look at our operations and evaluate how we can bring technology to create new solutions for employees,” said Mr Porter.

All of this means a more expensive workforce, which is a major reason for the push to replace humans with robots.  In 2012, Amazon acquired robotics startup Kiva Systems for $775 million, as Amazon's warehouses are well-suited to repetitive tasks.

Amazon didn't hold the event this year, and instead has shifted its focus to funding proposals in academia through its Amazon Research Awards program, said a person close to Amazon. -The Information Getting into the picking scene Online retailer JD.com, meanwhile, has announced plans to conduct a December “picking challenge” of its own in Tianjin, China.

The company boasts a fully automated fulfillment warehouse in Shanghai run by a skeleton crew of humans whose job it is to monitor and maintain the machines.  Experts differ on how long it will take before e-commerce fulfillment is fully automated.  Jeff Mahler, CEO at Ambidextrous Laboratories, a robotics startup that was recently spun out of University of California, Berkeley, said some parts of fulfillment can be automated in the near future, such as organizing products on shelves in warehouses.

The company is now phasing out humans – having learned our ways – according to CEO Jim Liefer.

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