Alexis Madrigal has a great piece about warehouse robots over at Wired Science. Here’s a nuance I would not have predicted:
The system adjusts to the nature of the products and workers, too. In a typical [robot warehouse], the humans are placed around the edges of the room. As the robots pick up loads of products and put them back, they adjust the warehouse for greater efficiency. More popular products end up around the edges of the warehouse while more obscure products, like those acid-washed bell bottoms, end up buried deep in the stacks. The self-tuning nature of the system creates big efficiencies.
How cool is that? The warehouse adapts. The physical space becomes a map of the underlying cost of time—which isn’t just about raw distance in this case, but about repetition, too.
I realize this sort of mapping exists elsewhere; I just can’t think of anywhere else where it’s so flexible. For instance, I’m thinking about this view of London that paints both housing cost (in dollars) and travel cost (in minutes) onto the map. Now if only bits of the city could scoot around on robot wheels and rearrange themselves for maximum efficiency…
See also: Matt Jones’ recent talk on time as a material that can be manipulated and designed.