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Amazon Abandons Robot Home Delivery Service

Scout is in mothballs. We are told that “the program did not completely meet its customers' needs.”

Delivery folks, don’t quit your jobs yet:

Oct 6 (Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) will stop live tests of its automated delivery robot “Amazon Scout”, a company spokesperson said in an emailed statement on Thursday, after the U.S. retailer realized the program did not completely meet its customers’ needs.

The company is now scaling back or “reorienting” the program, and it will work with the involved employees to match them to other open roles within the organization, Amazon spokesperson Alisa Carroll said, adding that it was not abandoning the project altogether.

Technology, “Amazon abandons live tests of Scout home delivery robot” at Reuters (October 6, 2022)

Amazon insists that it is not abandoning the idea. But problems with the model in the film are not hard to infer.

Here’s a hint as to what went wrong:

“During our Scout limited field test, we worked to create a unique delivery experience, but learned through feedback that there were aspects of the program that weren’t meeting customers’ needs,” said Amazon spokesperson Alisa Carroll.

The company didn’t elaborate, but some observers reported that it struggled to get past obstacles on the sidewalk, such as trash or other minor debris.

Devin Sean Martin, “Amazon powers down ‘Scout’ home delivery robot after alleged mishaps” at New York Post (October 7, 2022)

It’s little things like that which sink many ambitious AI projects. Life forms know what to do when the obstacle doesn’t matter. But all that innate natural knowledge must be coded into AI. It’s a job.

The 400 employees on the project will reportedly be reassigned:

The end of Scout testing is just the latest cutback in a string of belt-tightening maneuvers for Amazon, that seem to signal financial stress. The retail giant announced a hiring freeze earlier this month. Then, on Wednesday, the company also scrapped Glow, discontinuing its clunky video portal for kids—an admittedly less charismatic design than the Wall-E-esque Scouts.

Lauren Leffer, “Amazon Scraps Scout Home Delivery Robot Tests” at Gizmodo (October 7, 2022)

If Scout II can be programmed to deal with sidewalk trash, we will likely next hear of it being attacked by guard dogs and raptors, to say nothing of human thieves. Trying to completely replace nature is proving quite the challenge.

You may also wish to read: As the robot fry cook takes over the kitchen … … Jay Richards’ new short “Science Uprising” special dismisses philosophical claims that humans are mere “meat machines.” With any luck, people using new technology can increasingly design the jobs they want to do and have the skills for.

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Amazon Abandons Robot Home Delivery Service