At the end of October, Amazon filed two patents for a wristband that would serve to monitor the execution of the tasks assigned to a worker through an ultrasound-based system that would detect the movement of their hands. Furthermore, the wristband would emit sound pulses and vibrations while on the skin of the wearer in order to guide their movements, pulses which would be sent and recorded by sensors placed in the warehouse where the goods are stored. The commands would ultimately originate from a central desk that would monitor the task remotely and in real time.
The news was reported by the GeekWire website after the patents were published. The project aims to simplify the fulfilment of orders, which are currently relayed to handheld computers that Amazon store employees carry with them. Once they receive an order, workers have to hurry to retrieve the product from the shelves, pack it in a box for delivery and then move on to the next assignment. It seems that Amazon has considered the possibility of using ultrasound wristbands not only for its warehouse employees, but also for those working outdoors and on its transport fleet.
The aim is not only to be able to trace the shipment of packages, as is the practice already, but also to plan and control the behavior of workers, in a system where humans are to be controlled like robots. This is the reason people use a term such as “Amabots” for the human workers who have become “Amazon’s robots.” Workers become one with the computer system, quasi-cyborgs and an embodiment of the algorithms. The neologism “Amabot” clearly shows, as many well-known investigative accounts have also reported—for instance, J.B. Malet’s 2013 En Amazonie, or the BBC’s 2016 investigation—that factory automation version 4.0 leads not to the liberation of human labor, but to its robotization.