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It's Time to Meet Digit: Agility Robotics Debuts a Human-Centric, Multi-Purpose Safety Robot

By Alex Passett
March 27, 2023

Though Metropolis, Ghost in the Shell, I, Robot, Ex Machina, and a full bucket-o’-bolts’-worth of films exist (i.e. ones that present moral conundrums, or worse, involving the rise of robotic technologies), let’s parse the sci-fi for a moment and consider different stories; The Iron Giant, WALL-E, or Big Hero 6, for instance. (After all, not every robots-centric tale becomes The Terminator.)

Contrary to the first films mentioned, the others take a more genial approach, while still wrestling with the concepts of robots and simply what they, in theory, can unlock for humans: How are use cases defined? What can be made safer and easier for us? What potentialities await, once we’re capable of responsible achievements in the field of robotics? How can we continue to grow alongside them?

You’d be forgiven if your mind wanders while weighing such what-ifs. These topics hold a ton of intrigue.

Thankfully, our minds need not wander far (not today, at least), as we’ve thankfully got exciting news to share regarding modern-day robots, courtesy of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

Enter robotics research and product development company Agility Robotics. Its teams are bound by one common goal: To build multi-purpose robots for good. After all, per the company themselves, “It takes incredible people to build incredible robots, and you don’t accomplish the never-been-done-befores without a culture that supports smart risk-taking and healthier living.” Based in Corvallis, OR (with its sister locations found in Palo Alto, CA and Pittsburgh, PA), engineers, builders, artists, teachers, and even literal rocket scientists at Agility Robotics all contribute to what may very well be next wave of robotic innovation in IIoT.

Agility Robotics officially announced the next generation of Digit, a human-centric, multi-purpose robot made specifically for logistics work. Digit, a bipedal robot, has a functioning upper torso, arms, sensors, and heaps of additional computing power. Its four degree-of-freedom (4-DOF) limbs greatly extend its mobility and utility.

“Arms in particular,” explained Dr. Jonathan Hurst, CTO of Agility Robotics, “are both a tool for moving through our world – getting up after a fall, waving for balance, pushing open doors – and also for manipulating or carrying objects. These capabilities are vital when moving through complex, human-oriented environments, including in factories, for curb-to-doorstep deliveries, and other tasks.”

Digit is designed to go where humans go and to do the useful work that humans safely do. Starting with bulk material handling in warehouses and distribution centers, Digit will be able to take over warehouse work that typically involves many arduous, process-automated, repetitive tasks that can often lead to injury, burnout, and high turnover (which, in turn, lead to gaps in the workforce and snarled supply chains).

“Existing automation solutions are typically single-purpose,” said Damion Shelton, CEO of Agility of Robotics. “Companies have to onboard and maintain dozens of them to handle dozens of different solutions for different tasks, or they require expensive types of customizations.”

“But with enormous interest in Digit from multinational logistics companies,” Shelton continued, “we’ve worked tirelessly to understand how Digit can truly improve supply chain operations. Our customers’ use cases are always top of mind for us; we want to solve logistics labor issues and answer the demand for labor that, currently, far exceeds available human talent. Future disruptions can be mitigated with Digit as part of the future of work, allowing people to focus on more creative and complex initiatives.”

Agility Robotics will be opening up applications for a limited number of spots in its Agility Partner Program (APP) that will provide said partners with the opportunity to exclusively shape Digit’s skills and abilities developments. Those forward-thinking companies who align with the APP will be led through warehouse workflows and pain points, and then demonstrations will take place to show how Digit can alleviate those very issues based on real-world cases.

“We’ve learned so much about how robots can partner with the human workforce and work naturally in human environments,” Hurst added, “and we can’t wait to see the positive impact that the new Digit will have in the world.”

Edited by Greg Tavarez
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