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Amazon's automated attendants (pictures)

At Amazon's fulfillment centers, packing an order is happening even faster, thanks to the help of robotized warehouses.

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james-martin-profile-crop
James Martin
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1 of 15 James Martin/CNET

Revolutionizing retail, again

In a massive 1.2 million square foot warehouse in Tracy, Calif., more than 3,000 robots are helping Amazon keep up with customer's orders.

The Kiva robots, pictured here, are square, squat utilitarian machines. They're able to lift as much as 750 pounds, allowing them to bring shelves to the employees packaging orders.

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The Amazon Army

There are now more than 15,000 Kiva robots in use at Amazon fulfillment centers in the United States. They have increased the capacity of the warehouse space, with the centers able to hold 50 percent more inventory using the Kiva system.

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Where shipping and receiving becomes graceful

The Kiva robots have helped reduce processing times for some orders to mere minutes from several hours before.

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Shelves on demand

Kiva robots travel through the warehouse, find appropriate products and deliver the entire shelf right to the human-staffed order-filling station.

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The Picker

The Kiva robots line up, and when it arrives, the employees -- called "pickers" -- selects the proper items from the shelf. Rather than the employees wandering through a massive warehouse to find an item, the shelf come right to them.

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Order fulfillment in Tracy, Calif.,

Dave Clark, Amazon's senior VP of worldwide operations and customer service, stands at a picking station alongside robot staffed mobile shelves.

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A Kiva unit

Looking down at one of the 3,000 Kiva robots which swarm through the 1.2 million square foot Amazon fulfillment center in Tracy, Calif.

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The eye

A look at the center eye on top of the Kiva robot, which aligns itself with the shelf, lifts it up, and carries the product-filled shelf to the order-filling "Picker."

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The Kiva robots move quickly and silently through the warehouse, efficiently helping to fill orders.

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Amazon Fresh

This Tracy, Calif., fulfillment center also houses some Amazon Fresh grocery delivery operations, but that system has not been robotized, yet.

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The long view

A look down the aisles of the 1.2 million square foot fulfillment centers. A seemingly endless maze, with Kiva robots patiently negotiating one another's paths.

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Boxes heading out

Moving along a zipping conveyor belt, boxes ready for delivery are separated by destination, and loaded on to trucks for.

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Kiva at work

A Kiva robot lifts a shelf of goods just off the ground and moves through the warehouse to one of the order filling "picking stations."

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The hum of commerce

Boxes rattle along conveyor belts, up ramps and down chutes on the path to order fulfillment. The loud drone of machinery fills the air, filling orders 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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The most wonderful time

Amazon says it plans to hire more than 80,000 seasonal workers this holiday season.

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