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Amazon Just Patented a Package-Packer Bot to Add to Its Fleet of 45,000 Robots

by Alyssa Newcomb /
A Kiva robot moves a rack of merchandise at an Amazon fulfillment center on Jan. 20, 2015 in Tracy, Calif.Justin Sullivan / Getty Images, file

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How many robots touched your Amazon delivery before it was delivered to you?

The e-commerce giant currently has around 45,000 robots in distribution centers across the country. But that number is about to get even higher. The retailer was just granted a patent for a robot that can pack orders, potentially speeding up the fulfillment process.

One scenario detailed in the patent filing explains how a "human operator loads the tray with an inventory item," such as a coffee mug. Using suction, the item is grasped by a robotic arm and is "moved into the appropriate box from a group of boxes that are awaiting ordered items for shipment to customers," according to the filing.

Amazon has already been heavily investing in a robotic future.

Related: Amazon is Developing Headphones That Turn off and on With a Keyword

The retailer already relies on Kiva robots in some of its fulfillment centers to do some of the heavy lifting, bringing shelves of items to humans who fill boxes.

If Amazon has its way, delivery drones could one day be as common as seeing a mail truck. While Amazon is still facing regulatory hurdles in the U.S., the company made its first drone delivery through its Amazon Prime Air service to a customer in Cambridge, England last year.

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