Although the company did raise the minimum wage for all of its employees earlier this month, it’s plowing ahead on warehouse robotics and automation in a way that could fundamentally reshape how its lowest-paid employees perform work — and how many of those employees it needs to retain. Amazon now uses more than 100,000 robots in warehouses around the world to help move and organize products, according to The New York Times, and it also sponsors an annual robotics competition to help spur innovation in AI that could result in more dexterous and intelligent robots capable of performing complex physical tasks.
The first Echo came out in late 2014 as a Prime member exclusive, but in the four short years since, Amazon has developed dozens of different smart home products that revolve around the speaker and voice assistant format. Today, thousands of products integrate with the company’s Alexa platform to make use of its voice search and query capabilities. Just as it once foresaw e-commerce, streaming, and cloud computing as the future of the internet, Amazon saw AI as not just something that could live within the smartphone — as Apple established with Siri and Google with its Assistant — but also in the home.
Amazon first entered the media industry as a major online retailer in the late ‘90s. The company began by selling CDs and DVDs to a burgeoning market of online shoppers who began turning to the internet for music and movies, before the technical feasibility of streaming and the advent of the iPod. But it wasn’t until 2005, with the initial launch of Amazon Prime, that the company began laying the ground work for a future digital media ecosystem that integrated directly into its online store.
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As it stands today, Amazon employs more than half a million people, more so than any other technology company in the country and second only to Walmart in the US. But the eventual result of its investments in robotics and AI is that technology’s biggest and fast-growing workforce could see that growth start to slow and, perhaps years down the line, even shrink as robots tackle ever more complicated tasks. In the process, the company may develop robots for use outside its fulfillment centers. Amazon has already changed how we shop and, by extension, how we live our lives. Its next big step could be changing how we work.
Bezos selected the name Amazon by looking through the dictionary; he settled on "Amazon" because it was a place that was "exotic and different", just as he had envisioned for his Internet enterprise. The Amazon River, he noted, was the biggest river in the world, and he planned to make his store the biggest bookstore in the world. Additionally, a name that began with "A" was preferential due to the probability it would occur at the top of an alphabetized list. Bezos placed a premium on his head start in building a brand and told a reporter, "There's nothing about our model that can't be copied over time. But you know, McDonald's got copied. And it's still built a huge, multibillion-dollar company. A lot of it comes down to the brand name. Brand names are more important online than they are in the physical world."
Fitness guru Billy Blanks entered American homes across the country when he introduced his Tae Bo workout. The creator of the martial art known as Tae Bo, Blanks sought to teach people how they could get more physically fit, be more confident, and do so from the comfort of their own home. The Tae Bo workout has revolutionized the way people get their exercise and provided millions of people access to an easy and effective martial art that they can learn through instructional videos.