Ocado to use 'C-3PO' robot in its warehouses

Ocado is set to roll out a "C-3PO" robot in its heavily automated warehouses as it seeks to reduce its reliance on human workers.

While the EU-funded "SecondHands" robot has been compared to the Star Wars favourite, it rolls on wheels rather than walking on legs.

A prototype has arrived at the Ocado Technology robotics research lab, where it will be experimented on to test different features.

It is hoped the robots will help improve productivity at the dozens of warehouses Ocado has across the UK.

The company's head offices are in Hatfield in Hertfordshire, and it also has a presence in Poland, Bulgaria, and Spain - however it has faced criticism for the number of automated systems its warehouses employ.

The company itself has said that the investment in automation is not an attempt to replace people, but to "take away an element of a technician's job that is physically demanding, boring or unpleasant".

"We are removing the physical labour but you will still need the human," the company said. "The idea is they work together and are more productive as a pair."

Economic forecasts suggest that automation will lead to the loss of jobs, however.

A report last year by PwC said that around 10 million workers were at risk of losing their jobs to robots over the next 15 years.

The report said up to around 30% of existing UK jobs were susceptible to automation by the 2030s.

Sectors such as transport and manufacturing were said to be facing the biggest risk, with half of jobs at "potential high risk" of disappearing, according to the analysis.

According to the World Robotics Report, installations of robots in industrial settings are set to grow 15% in 2018.