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How Robots and Drones Will Change Retail Forever


This Amazon distribution center in Baltimore can fulfill a million orders in a day.

Companies are using artificial intelligence and robotics to transform everything from appliance shopping to grocery delivery.

Credit: Spencer Lowell/The Wall Street Journal

The world's companies are in the initial stages of what might be called the "physical cloud," an e-commerce ecosystem that functions like the Internet.

Although fully automated warehouses are still a few years away, companies such as Amazon and Walmart have patented blimp-like warehouse structures that will float 1,000 feet in the air, with drones ready to deliver consumer goods to people's homes.

However, before this becomes a reality, robots need to be able to perform every warehouse task without human intervention.

After warehouses, delivery vehicles will be the next stage of e-commerce automation; some companies are developing systems to get packages from a self-driving van to the consumer, either by deploying a smaller autonomous vehicle or delivering to a locker in the neighborhood.

Due to regulations put in place by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, wheeled delivery systems are much more likely for the near future than drones.

From The Wall Street Journal
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