An automated robots fetch merchandise from aisles at the Hudson's Bay Company distribution centre in Toront. Photo: Reuters/Fred Thornhill

Companies including US’ retail-chain owner Hudson Bay and Chinese e-commerce firm have already begun testing robots that can pick out items and box them, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Some developers say their machines can move consumer products 50% faster than humans, as logistics firms hope the advances can help them keep pace with the rapid growth seen in online sales.

“When you’re talking about hundreds of millions of units, those numbers can be very significant,” Marc Wulfraat, president of consulting firm MWPVL was quoted as saying. While the technology isn’t yet ready for prime time, “it’s going to be a significant edge for whoever gets there first,” he said.