2016 saw Amazon granted a patent for cages which could transport humans around their warehouses. Workers would sit in box-like enclosures on top of a claw-arm device and could navigate the work floor alongside the company’s robots.

The patent surfaced after a recent study by AI ethics researchers. Titled “System and Method for transporting Personnel within an active Workspace,” the illustration depicts a cage designed to carry employees around warehouses. Amazon’s patent describes how the device could be used to bring workers near autonomous robots to repair, remove or correct issues. A highly automated company, Amazon’s current system shuts down automatically if an unauthorized person enters the robot-only zone. But this patent states “there may be circumstances where it is necessary for human operators to traverse, or otherwise go into, an active workspace.”

Eight Boston inventors are credited for the patent. Earlier this year, Amazon had patented machines that track workers’ hand movements, and In 2016, a patent for drones that could link to form a floating warehouse.

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