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Brad Porter, VP of Robotics at Amazon, on Warehouse Automation, Machine Learning, and His First Robot

Amazon’s chief roboticist discusses the latest advances in the field and how his team is using machine learning to make its robots smarter

Starting with its acquisition of Kiva Systems for $775 million back in 2012, Amazon has been steadily investing in a robotic future. From delivery drones to a rumored home robot to a robotics picking challenge, Amazon definitely wants useful, practical robots to happen. We’re not always sure that they’re going about it the right way, but we are always in favor of companies with as much clout as Amazon has recognizing that robotics is worth focusing on, especially with an understanding that some problems are going to take years of work to solve.

Brad Porter is the vice president of robotics at Amazon. He joined the company over a decade ago, initially working on Amazon’s web operations and e-commerce architecture. He later joined a team led by Jeff Wilke, chief executive of worldwide consumer, as a distinguished engineer, and during that time he oversaw technical preparations for Amazon’s first Prime Day and helped establish the Prime Air drone delivery organization. Porter earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science at MIT before joining Netscape and later helping start an early cloud technology company. Now leading the company’s robotics efforts, he oversees teams in Seattle, Boston, and Europe. He spoke with IEEE Spectrum via email.