Layoffs Reportedly Hit Amazon's Robotics Team As Big Tech Continues To Struggle

Correction 11/15/2022: An earlier version of this story said that Amazon had laid off its entire robotics division. An Amazon representative reached out to say this isn't the case, stating, "We're always reviewing our projects to make sure we're doing the right thing for our customers and our team, and we made the decision to consolidate a few early stage research and development projects in robotics so we can focus on the pieces that will have the greatest customer impact." SlashGear has asked Amazon to clarify the scope of these layoffs.

Following a five-day period when Twitter laid off around half of its workforce and Meta terminated around 11,000 employees, Amazon is apparently the latest tech company eyeing up a restructure. The online shopping behemoth is apparently trimming less profitable departments after losing billions every year on projects like Alexa. 

Twitter's huge layoffs came shortly after Musk officially acquired the company. Pre-takeover rumors suggested Musk could lay off up to three-quarters of Twitter's 7,500 staff, but in the end, only around half were shown the door. According to several reports, the company would have had to shed staff even if Musk didn't purchase it. However, reports also emerged that Twitter may have miscalculated exactly which employees should be let go. The mass-firing included key staff responsible for working on complex areas of the site, such as coding the programs it uses for security. Other layoffs include some of the staff the company needs to keep if it is to hit Musk's ambitious deadlines on new projects. As a result, Twitter has reportedly been trying to lure certain staff members back to their roles.

Meta, which was formerly known as Facebook, followed up a few days later by laying off more staff than Twitter had ever employed. Around 11,000 people were laid off in total, which represents roughly 13% of Meta's employee base. Zuckerberg took personal responsibility for the layoffs, saying that many had predicted the surge in revenue tech companies saw early on in the 2020 coronavirus pandemic would continue. Zuckerberg believed this too and "overinvested" in the company, hiring more staff than it could maintain. Now Amazon is the latest company to acknowledge its heavy losses and attempt to restructure.

Amazon's Robotics Team is no more

Earlier today Amazon unveiled its latest delivery drone upgrades, showing how technology could make the company more effective and efficient in the future. At the same time, the company is telling employees in its less profitable departments to begin looking elsewhere for work as major staffing cuts could be coming. Those layoffs may have already started. According to a Linkedin post by former Amazon Robotics AI Software Engineer Jamie Zhang, some portion of Amazon's robotics team is now gone, though it's unclear how many employees have been laid off. Zhang, who had been with the company for 18 months, described his own job loss as surprising. 

Other less profitable departments that could be facing the ax include the ones responsible for Alexa, Amazon's home assistant. Alexa is part of Amazon's devices department, which The Wall Street Journal claims has operating losses of over $5 billion per year. The company is allegedly debating adding new capabilities to Alexa after accepting the majority of customers only use the smart assistant's more basic functions. Overall company losses amounted to around $3 billion so far this year, and the retail giant's stock price has also taken a significant hit. Exactly how many of its 10,000 employees will be on the way out is currently unknown, but it's looking like Amazon is the latest big tech company that will be forced to restructure massively.