Amazon Robotics is trying to remove the barcodes, to replace them with something more modern and intelligent. Is called “multimodal identification” and allows you to recognize shapes, sizes and other information from images, to automate identification.
Amazon wants to eliminate barcodes with artificial intelligence
For 50 years we have been using barcodes to recognize products, both for logistics during transport and during sale. Amazon’s warehouse workers also use it to recognize what you’ve bought, and then ship it to you. But a sometimes the barcode is missing, it is damaged. So a robot can’t handle this on its own.
For this reason, Amazon is investing in multimodal identification research, or MMID. A camera looks at the images, evaluates the shape of objects and thus manages to catalog and recognize them. A technology already used in the Amazon centers in Hamburg and Barcelona: when the products arrive on the trolley to be shipped, the artificial intelligence understands whether they are exactly the product ordered by the customer, or if the shape and size do not match.
Nontas Antonakos, leader of the project, explains: “Our guiding star is the use of this technology in robotic manipulation. Fixing this problem will allow robots to take objects and process them sno need to scan barcodes: it’s essential. It will help us deliver packages to customers faster and more accurately. And MMID is a cornerstone for doing that.”
To implement this system, Amazon has collected many images of objects along the cart to transport, building an image library. Which he then analyze by transforming into vectors that mathematically describe shape and size. Through deep learning, they have achieved success rates of 75-80%. The company has therefore continued to invest in research, until reaching percentages of 99%: an almost absolute precision.
The high precision also comes from the fact that the system matches the Amazon cataloging system: it doesn’t have to compare with the hundreds of millions of products in the catalog, but only with the few dozen of the shelf from which the object comes.
With this technology, Amazon aims to speed up and simplify the work in its warehouses, offering a better service than what barcodes could offer.