A Chinese warehouse reportedly cut its labor costs in half with a fleet of tiny robots

Anybody there?
Anybody there?
Image: People's Daily
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It’s a disconcerting narrative to the American government, but the US is being outspent and out-scaled by the implementation of robots in China. Asia produces more robots than the rest of the world combined, and Chinese workers fear unemployment at the hands of robots more than anyone else. Even the Obama White House warned (pdf) that to stay competitive America needed to further invest in artificial intelligence and software that helps allow robots to operate in dynamic environments.

Shentong Express, a Chinese shipping company, showed off a mildly-dystopian automated warehouse last week that reportedly cut its labor costs by half, according to the South China Morning Post. In a video, tiny orange robots made by Hikvision ferry packages around an eastern China warehouse, taking each parcel from a human worker, driving under a scanner, and then dumping the package down a specific chute for it to be shipped.

The human’s main job in the video appears to be picking up packages and placing them label-up on top of the robot, a task modern robotics is only just starting to put into warehouse production. A spokesperson told the Post that Shentong is using the robot in two of its warehouses, and hopes to expand use to the rest of the country.

Just because little robots appear to be sorting boxes in this warehouse doesn’t we’ll all be out of work—data from Amazon suggests that even with 45,000 of its own robots in fulfillment centers, the American company still is looking to hire more and more humans for other tasks.