Amazon announced today that it’s going to build a new robotics hub in Westborough, MA outside of Boston. The company is spending $40 million on the 350,000 square foot facility that will open in 2021 and be in addition to the company’s current robotics center in North Reading, MA.
When you think about Amazon automation, it’s often in relation to its warehouse robots that autonomously carry around racks of items to be boxed and shipped. But the company has been branching out into other robots such as the Scout delivery robot currently running around in tests in Washington state and California. Amazon also has a patent for a robot that would live in your garage and go out to fetch items for you.
Amazon didn’t mention any specific projects that will be worked on at the new facility, but given our focus on food here at The Spoon, our minds immediately went to how Amazon could continue to apply new robots to groceries. Amazon is reportedly looking to open up its own line of supermarkets apart from Whole Foods, and it’s not hard to imagine the company taking its logistical know-how and applying it to some kind of robot-driven grocery fulfillment center.
Automated grocery fulfillment centers are gaining some traction with grocery retailers. Takeoff Technologies is building out micro-fulfillment centers in the back of existing grocery stores for Albertsons, Ahold Delhaize and Sedano’s. Fabric (formerly Common Sense Robotics) recently raised $110 million and moved its headquarters to New York City and has plans to build 14 fulfillment centers across the U.S. Meanwhile, Kroger is building out standalone robot-powered smart warehouses for grocery delivery in various locations across the eastern half of the U.S.
If Amazon builds out its own supermarket chain from the ground up, it’s conceivable that it will incorporate automation and robots to make fulfilling online orders more speedy. Plus, having all that robotics talent and research could help the company figure out new technologies to better handle fragile and perishable items like fruits and vegetables.