Humanoid robot Digit finally gets a head and hands

Agility Robotics’ bot is now ready to join the workforce.

Oregon-based startup Agility Robotics has unveiled the fourth version of its humanoid robot Digit — and it’s now looking to help the bot land a job.

“We look forward to Digit augmenting workforces, taking on the ‘dull, dirty, and dangerous’ tasks, and allowing people to focus on more creative and complex work,” said CEO Damion Shelton. “We like to think of Digit as enabling humans to be more human.”

The background: Agility unveiled Digit in 2019 with the idea that the bipedal robot would one perform a slew of tasks, delivering packages, moving totes around warehouses, and even taking care of seniors in their homes.

Since then, Digit has dabbled in the world of work — Ford bought a pair of the bots to test as a last-mile delivery solution — but hasn’t exactly revolutionized it the way Agility envisioned. Yet.

“[The eyes are] an intuitive indication of what the robot’s about to do.”

Jonathan Hurst

What’s new? Agility has now unveiled a fourth version of Digit that Shelton says features updates that should make it even more beneficial to employers.

“[W]e have seen enormous interest in Digit from multinational logistics companies and have worked closely with them to understand how they want to use Digit to improve warehouse and supply chain operations,” said Shelton. “We designed the next generation of Digit with those customer use cases in mind.”

Digit 4.0: The most obvious difference between the new Digit robot and its predecessors is the addition of a head with animated eyes — the purpose of this update is to make it easier for people to work alongside the humanoid robot.

“[The eyes] are really helpful for indicating what the robot’s about to do and what its focus is, so it kind of allows people to not be surprised about the robot’s behavior,” co-founder Jonathan Hurst told TechCrunch. “It’s an intuitive indication of what the robot’s about to do.”

While versions 1 and 2 of Digit had spiky balls at the ends of their arms, the third interaction had only smooth nubs. The newest version of the humanoid robot, meanwhile, has “end effectors” — i.e., hands — optimized for carrying around the plastic totes commonly used in warehouses.

three versions of the humanoid robot Digit
The new Digit (center) has hands. Credit: Agility Robotics

Looking ahead: Agility is now looking for companies who want to deploy Digits in their warehouses and supply chain operations to join its Agility Partner Program

It’s not clear what it will cost to join the program, but Agility says in addition to providing Digits to partners, it will work directly with them to ensure the robots are able to alleviate issues at their worksites. It will also incorporate their feedback into future versions of the humanoid robot and give the companies early access to next-gen Digits.

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

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