Agility Robotics announced an updated version today of its bipedal Digits warehouse robot. Designed to take on repetitive or injury-risking tasks, the new version adds a head (with LED animated eyes) and hands, and it can handle a wider variety of demanding workloads than its predecessor.
The new Digits robot can “reach higher, carry more, last longer, charge faster and convey intent” better than the previous model. In addition, it’s better at manipulating its surroundings, and it has keener perception and is better at human-robot interactions. The machine is 5’9” tall and weighs around 140 lbs, including newly designed “end effectors” (hands) that help it reach high or low spaces and pick up or place plastic totes or other objects found in shipping warehouses.
“Warehouse work includes many process-automated, repetitive tasks that all too often lead to injury and high turnover, leaving costly gaps in the workforce that snarl supply chains,” explains the company in a press release. “While automation can help fill those gaps, existing automation solutions are typically single purpose, meaning companies have to onboard and maintain dozens of different solutions for different tasks, or they require expensive customization to the workspace.” The idea is that a humanoid robot can best replicate the tasks typically assigned to humans.
Although automation can spare human workers from the most grueling activities, it isn’t always that tidy: Machines are as likely to erase human jobs altogether. Moreover, with wealth disparity already astronomically high, the robot arrives as the world’s largest corporations have been laying off thousands of employees; it’s hard not to view these machines with as much cynicism as awe.
Agility Robotics will perform fully autonomous live demos of Digits at ProMat Chicago this week (March 20th to 23rd). The company is also opening applications for spots in its Agility Partner Program (APP), which will be the only place to purchase them initially. Pricing has yet to be announced, and the first units are expected to ship to APP participants in early 2024. The company is aiming for 2025 for general availability.