Skip to main content

Amazon boosts productivity by gamifying warehouse workers’ tedium

Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Amazon is clearly edging ever closer to the day when it can replace its warehouse workers with robots, but until then it needs to make sure those workers operate as efficiently as possible so that it can streamline its operation and ensure its online shoppers receive their orders in a timely fashion.

One way Amazon is doing this is by allowing its warehouse staff to play games while they work. The games have been specially designed to increase productivity by encouraging competition among workers.

According to a Washington Post report this week, hundreds of pickers and packers at Amazon warehouses “spend hours a day playing video games,” with some competing “by racing virtual dragons or sports cars around a track, while others collaborate to build castles piece by piece.” The offerings include Amazon-made titles such as MissionRacer, PicksInSpace, and Dragon Duel.

The games, whose graphics and gameplay are described as being a bit on the clunky side, are currently offered at five Amazon warehouses, including in its home city of Seattle, Washington, and Manchester, England.

Employees can choose whether or not to play the games, which are displayed on screens attached to workstations. Single-player modes are available, though team games are also possible.

The Post describes how flashing lights direct workers to grab an ordered item that then has to be put into a bin, with the speed of their actions transformed into a game on a screen. The so-called “gamification” of tedious and repetitive tasks is designed to make a job more entertaining, while at the same time encouraging staff to complete their work more quickly.

Those who play the games are rewarded with “points, virtual badges, and other goodies,” though in one warehouse some high-scoring workers have reportedly persuaded managers to let them exchange their rewards for so-called “swag bucks,” an in-house currency that staff can use for buying a range of items.

For sure, Amazon doesn’t get the best press when it comes to the treatment of its warehouse-based workforce, though the company always insists it fully supports its staff. With its gaming initiative, some Amazon employees told the Post it’d helped to inject some fun into otherwise monotonous tasks.

With recent promises of one-day delivery for all Prime members, Amazon is under pressure to find ways to improve productivity levels among not only its workforce, but throughout all stages of its massive logistical operation.

Technological advances are certainly helping the company to speed up much of its work, an increasingly important factor that allowed Amazon to make fewer temporary hires than usual during the last holiday season.

Indeed, game or no game, when Amazon finally develops the perfect warehouse robot capable of performing all the necessary tasks in the blink of an eye, there’ll only be one winner.

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
Everything announced at Amazon’s fall 2023 devices event
The Amazon Echo Show 8 at the Devices Event 2023.

The leaves are starting to turn color, and you know what that means: Amazon's annual fall Devices and Services event is upon us, bringing with it a veritable smorgasbord of product announcements, from new Fire TV streaming gadgets and Echo devices to Amazon smart home gear like Blink and Ring cameras, as well as Eero Wi-Fi routers and Alexa galore.

Taking place Wednesday, September 20, from Amazon's shiny new HQ2 second headquarters in the Crystal City neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia, the invite-only event was heavy on themes of generative AI and its use in the home, specifically how it relates to its own products. Dave Limp, Amazon's outgoing senior vice president of devices and services, delivered his last keynote, spilling the details on Alexa's most significant AI upgrade yet. Limp revealed its all-new advanced large language model (LLM), which will make the smart assistant more intuitive, conversational, and able to understand more complex nomenclature and nuances. And it's all integrated with Amazon's Alexa devices throughout your smart home.

Read more
At long last, Amazon brings AI features to Alexa
Amazon SVP of Devices and Services Dave Limp demonstrates the Let's Chat feature of Alexa, powered by AI.

Nearly a year after ChatGPT introduced the world to the uncannily human possibilities of generative AI, Amazon has unveiled new Alexa features powered by large language models (LLM). At the annual Amazon Devices Event hosted at its new Arlington, Virginia, headquarters, the company announced some major Alexa improvements that will attempt to make replies much more conversational and lifelike, with less waiting time between your interactions and more meaningful replies.

A new feature called Let's Chat mimics the ChatGPT experience by allowing you to have a fluid conversation with Alexa, asking questions about everything from the voice assistant's football team allegiance to recipes. You can even ask it to write emails for you. In the demo with Dave Limp, outgoing senior vice president of devices and services, Alexa sometimes stalled and needed a second prompt to answer questions, suggesting the feature may still need some polish.

Read more
Amazon’s Echo family expands with an on-wall hub, smart glasses, and more
The Amazon Echo Frames on display at the 2023 Amazon fall devices event.

Another year, another batch of new devices from Amazon's fall event. This year's showcase had plenty of newly announced gear and improvements to some much-loved Alexa-powered products. From an all-new interactive touchscreen display for controlling all your smart home devices to a fresh set of Echo shades, many of these cutting-edge gadgets are already available for preorder. Here's all the hardware we found out about today.
The all-new Echo Hub


Read more