WESTBOROUGH, MASS. — In a brightly lighted warehouse tucked along an industrial road about 45 minutes east of Boston, a yellow-plated, gooseneck-like mechanical arm stretched one recent morning and plucked a plastic jar holding a powdered drink mix out of a yellow box. The device rose up, spun around with a loud whirring sound and gently placed the jar a few feet away into a gray bin.
It twisted again toward the yellow box and soon after grabbed a DVD case, a very different shape from the cylindrical jar, before pivoting quickly again to drop the item into an adjacent bin.
The actions look something like those of an amusement park claw game, except they are executed rapidly and smoothly, just like the countless movements that workers undertake to pick and pack millions of online orders each day in warehouses across the world.
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