Handy Invention or Future Robot Overlord?

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They’re so cute at that age

Amazon started testing robot package deliverers in the Seattle suburbs this week.

The robot, called “Scout,” is roughly the size of a beverage cooler. Bright blue and riding on six wheels, the boxy package transporter sports Amazon Prime’s iconic “A to Z” logo on its side (to paraphrase Alec Baldwin’s character in Glengarry Glen Ross: A.B.M. — Always Be Marketing).

You say potato, I say robot assassin

While the robot is admittedly adorable, the militaristic associations of its name may give pause to those in the video gaming or sci-fi crowd. Deep saturation in nerd lore is not required to imagine the unassuming Scout as hiding, say, an AI-controlled armored ATV.

(OK, maybe some saturation in nerd lore.)

Will these robo-deliverymen make package transportation easier and cheaper? Or will humanity point to Amazon’s Washington R&D lab as ground zero when the robotic uprising inevitably comes?

Only time will tell.

Amazon hopes the unmanned electric vehicles will cut down its costs for the last mile of delivery, which is typically costly and labor-intensive.

Amazon’s announcement was light on Scout’s technical details, but the company said it will be “ensuring the devices can safely and efficiently navigate around pets, pedestrians and anything else in their path.” Cyberdyne Systems probably said something similar.

A mobile vandalism target

At least initially, Amazon will send a human companion with Scout as it makes deliveries. Presumably, the human will be there for observation and quality control — but also, perhaps, for protection.

In Phoenix, autonomous taxis have been the victims of vandalism. It can only be hoped that Scouts’ human companions will teach the young robots that not all people are such jerks — if only to avoid adding to Skynet’s long list of grievances.

Image from Amazon.com

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