Amazon has called it “forward looking technology”, designed to keep staff safe at in its vast warehouses, but critics are not convinced: they point out it looks an awful lot like a human cage.
An astonishing 2016 patent would have seen employees of the trillion-dollar company spend their shifts in tiny metal enclosures.
Inside there would have been small work station without a seat, from where each worker could ‘drive’ the cage around the warehouse. An attached robotic arm would take goods from shelves and place them in a trolley beneath the worker.
The patent was secured in 2016 and later abandoned but came light as part of a new academic study into the company’s use of artificial intelligence.
Authors Kate Crawford and Vladan Joler called the design “an extraordinary illustration of worker alienation, a stark moment in the relationship between humans and machines”.
Commentators online were equally unimpressed with many comparing it to something you “put prisoners in”.
But the Seattle-based company defended the patent.
It said the design had been an attempt to protect staff in a work environment that was increasingly populated by heavyweight robots, and would have allowed employees to safely access areas of warehouses that were otherwise off-limits because drones and robots were moving at high speeds.
“Sometimes even bad ideas get submitted for patents,” tweeted Dave Clark, the firm’s senior vice president of operations.