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Why Kiva Is Worth $775 Million to Amazon

Kiva's robots can make a huge difference to warehouse efficiency; watch these videos and see how

2 min read
Why Kiva Is Worth $775 Million to Amazon

On Monday, we broke the news that has decided to acquire Kiva Systems for more than three quarters of a billion dollars in cash. This is a heck of a lot of money, even for a company like Amazon, but as soon as you see what Kiva's robots are capable of, it'll make perfect sense.

In July of 2008, our esteemed editor wrote a beefy feature about Kiva, which is worth reading in its entirety. But if you're just looking for a snapshot of what Kiva can do for Amazon, check out these two vids: the first one comes from the 2011 Wired Business Conference, where Kiva CEO Mick Mountz discusses how Kiva robots think.

The fact is, Amazon is run out of warehouses, and the more efficient they can be in those warehouses, the more money they can make. Kiva makes warehouse operations significantly faster, of course, but it's more than that: using the robots means that Amazon can pack more stuff into a given space, they don't have to waste lots of money on heating or air conditioning or lighting, they don't have to spend lots of time training people, and they don't have to worry nearly as much about theft. Robots don't need overtime, healthcare, or 401(k).

That's all great news for Amazon, but they're buying Kiva, not just hiring them. We can only assume that it's obvious to this gigantic warehouse company that  Kiva Systems are the future of warehousing in general, and they want a piece (or all the pieces) of the action. Here's what Kiva managed to do for Zappos, for example:

For those of us who have been watching the robotics industry for a while, it's exciting to see things like this happen to companies like Kiva. Robots are tools that can do more than just serve as arms in factories: by making them smart and clever, they have the potential to transform all sorts of industries, and that makes them immensely valuable. And the field is still wide open. Kiva is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to robotics, and with a tip the size of $775 million, that should give you a clue as to how big this iceberg actually is.

[ Kiva Systems ]

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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