Amazon Launches New AI Tools to Compete with Tech Giants

“Amazon Web Service brings Bedrock, a service that will enable firms to customize their foundation models- the core AI technologies that perform things like answering queries with human-like text or generate images instantly with their own data to develop a unique model.”

AWS, the cloud computing division of Amazon Inc on Thursday unveiled a suite of technologies focused on helping other organizations launch their own chatbots and image-generation services powered by artificial intelligence (AI).

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Alphabet aka Google and Microsoft are adding AI-powered chatbots to consumer products similar to search engines, but these companies are also looking forward to building another huge market by selling the underlying technology to other organizations and firms through their cloud operations.

AWS, the world’s largest cloud computing service provider, joined the big fat competition by introducing its own proprietary AI technologies, but with a different approach.

Amazon Web Service brings Bedrock, a service that will enable firms to customize their foundation models- the core AI technologies that perform things like answering queries with human-like text or generating images instantly with their own data to develop a unique model.

For instance, OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT offers a similar type of service in which it allows its customers to improve the models behind ChatGPT to build a custom chatbot.

Vasi Philomin, Vice President of Generative AI at AWS, said, “It’s unneeded complexity from the perspective of the user. Behind the scenes, we can abstract that away.”

The Bedrock service from AWS will allow its customers to use its own proprietary foundation models named Amazon Titan, but it will also provide a comprehensive list of models provided by other companies. Along with Amazon-owned models, the first third-party offer will come from Anthropic, AI21 Labs, and Stability AI.

The Bedrock service from Amazon Web Service will empower its consumers to test those technologies without interacting with the underlying data center servers.

As the holiday shopping season approaches, Amazon is dealing with a wave of walkouts and strikes.  

Source: The Verge


The second Prime Day sale of the year is currently underway on Amazon, and it’s being marketed as a means to grab Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals early. However, as it pursues customers, Amazon is facing demands for improved compensation and working conditions from the employees who handle the massive volume of shipments that pass through its facilities, warehouses, and air hubs. As Amazon prepares to enter one of its busiest seasons, the danger of strikes, walkouts, and maybe another unionized warehouse all loom.

On Wednesday, workers at Amazon’s ALB1 facility in Albany, New York, started voting on whether to organize with the Amazon Labor Union, the group that unionized Amazon’s JFK8 facility and which is currently negotiating with Amazon for a contract. Another fulfillment center in Moreno Valley, California, has also filed to hold a vote on whether to join with the ALU, though the National Labor Relations Board still has to confirm whether 30 percent of the unit’s 800 workers signed cards saying they’re interested in the election.


Why is Amazon facing walk-outs and unionization?


The reasons for the employee actions are varied; in Illinois, workers are demanding protection against violence, injury, and sexual harassment. In California, workers have been demanding “basic safety measures” after Amazon failed to respond to a walkout this summer, where workers accused the company of not giving them breaks or aid during excessive heat. High temperatures have actually been a concern in many areas — earlier this year, lawmakers cited how Amazon handled 2017 and 2018 heatwaves in their demand for information on its severe weather policies, and the company has reportedly installed new air conditioning equipment at a facility where a worker died during the last Prime Day event (the company blamed “a personal medical condition” for the incident).

According to Jane Chung from The Worker Agency, Amazon “failed to meet workers’ demands and has responded to workers who are organizing to improve their jobs by bringing in high-paid outside consultants who harass and follow workers around in an attempt to dissuade them from organizing for better conditions.” She also mentioned that its Prime Day events exacerbate its “invasive surveillance, the dangerous pace of work, and deadly conditions” because it means employees have to “sprint to fulfill the massive growth in packages ordered, transported, and delivered.”


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Amazon stops field tests of its delivery robot Scout

Source: The Verge


Amazon’s is scaling back its plans to build a delivery robot, Scout, but insists that the project is not finished.

Bloomberg first reported that the company has shut down tests of the machine, and that the Scout team, constituting around 400 employees globally, is being disbanded. However, a spokesperson for Amazon, Alisa Carroll, told The Verge that the company is “not abandoning the Scout program” entirely: “We are scaling the program back and still have a team dedicated to Scout.”

Scout was launched in 2019 and has since been trialed in a number of states. The machine joined a growing number of semi-autonomous delivery robots; from wheeled robots the size of coolers, like Scout and industry-leader Starship Technologies, to “pods” the size of small cars, like those tested by Uber Eats and autonomous driving startup Nuro, and currently deployed in China by Amazon’s e-commerce rival Alibaba.


Amazon’s Scout


In most cases, the idea is for the robots to handle “last mile” deliveries — that is, taking packages from local distribution centers to customers’ front doors. However, as Amazon’s failure with Scout suggests, it’s not certain that the economics of this technology make sense. Although the robots are nominally autonomous, they often have to be overseen remotely, especially when they run into unexpected situations. They’re also slow, moving no faster than walking pace, which gives them little advantage over traditional couriers.

Bloomberg notes that Amazon’s decision to scrap tests of Scout is part of a company-wide move to cut down on more speculative investments as growth in its core retail sector slows. The company recently killed off its interactive, family-friendly video device, Amazon Glow, and is winding down its telehealth service, Amazon Care, by the end of the year.

It will be interesting to see if Amazon’s drone delivery service, Amazon Prime Air, survives this cull. The project was announced in 2016, but recent years have seen numerous reports of mismanagement, unrealistic expectations, and high employee turnover within the team.


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Amazon’s carbon emissions increased last year

Amazon gave a commitment to decrease its carbon footprint. Amazon said, “The Climate Pledge is a commitment to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2040—10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement. Amazon co-founded The Climate Pledge in 2019 to build a cross-sector community of companies, organizations, individuals, and partners working together to address the climate crisis and solve the challenges of decarbonizing our economy.” They also added, “Amazon became the first company to sign The Climate Pledge after co-founding the initiative in 2019 with Global Optimism, a purpose-driven organization led by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac, who oversaw the delivery of the historic Paris Agreement, the first global accord on climate change.”


Increase of Carbon emission by the company


But their emissions increased 18% last year as Covid drove an online shopping surge. CNBC reported, “Amazon’s carbon emissions jumped 18% last year, as the company reckoned with a pandemic-driven surge in e-commerce and grew its business to meet that extra demand.


In its annual sustainability report issued Monday, Amazon said its activities emitted the equivalent of 71.54 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2021. That’s up 18% from 2020, and an increase of nearly 40% from 2019, the year Amazon first began disclosing its carbon footprint.


Amazon lowered its carbon intensity, which measures emissions per dollar of sales, by 1.9% in 2021, compared with a 16% decline in 2020.”


Reveal reported, “Amazon had been shamed with an F grade for failing to disclose until this past year, when it submitted to CDP’s questionnaire for the first time. But unlike the majority of companies pressured by investors to disclose, Amazon asked that its report not be shared publicly.


Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting obtained Amazon’s report, and the detailed accounting within illuminates how such a massive company manages to boast such a small carbon footprint.”