We’re still processing all of the amazing things that we saw at CES last week – and here’s one of them, the headless robot that might appear at your door to handle the last few steps of a delivery process. DRONELIFE had a chance to speak with Dr. Damion Shelton, CEO of Agility Robotics, on the floor of the show.
When we asked why the robot was designed to look like a human – albeit, without a head – Shelton said that the Digi fits the existing world, “Much of the infrastructure is designed with humans in mind,” said Shelton. “They are between 4 and 6 feet in height and are bi-peds… that is why we designed Digit to emulate humans in appearance.”
“There are some differences however, in that the legs fold up to allow Digit to be moved in a much smaller space,” Shelton comments.
Digi is in production now – and Ford has purchased the first two units. See Digi at work below!
The following is an Agility Robotics press release.
Albany, OR and Dearborn, MI (Jan 6, 2020) – Agility Robotics is launching Digit, a robot with arms and legs to work with humans and in human spaces, for commercial sale; and, Ford Motor Company is the first customer, receiving the first two robots off the line. This cooperation continues the existing partnership between Agility and Ford ( https://www.agilityrobotics.com/ford-partnership ) to explore ways to help commercial vehicle customers, including autonomous vehicle businesses, make warehousing and delivery more efficient and affordable for their customers.
Key applications for further exploration are indoor or first-mile logistics and last-50-feet delivery. The research also will focus on how Ford’s commercial vehicles and Digit “talk” to each other and their surroundings through advanced connectivity technologies. For example, Ford’s connected vehicles can continually update cloud-based maps that can be shared with Digit so it doesn’t have to recreate the same type of information.
The team expects that, as Digit will be part of a package delivery service, this communication channel will also provide delivery specific information such as where a customer prefers packages to be left, or other individual package delivery needs. This communication channel also allows Digit to ask for help if something unexpected is encountered.
“As online retailing continues growing, we believe robots will help our commercial customers build stronger businesses by making deliveries more efficient and affordable for all of us.” said Ken Washington, vice president, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering, and Chief Technology Officer. “We learned a lot this year working with Agility, now we can accelerate our exploratory work with commercial Digit robots,”
Since the first Digit prototype was shown in May, Agility Robotics has tested it extensively, refined the design, and added features to be ready for production and sale to customers. Upgrades and improvements include more advanced feet that allow Digit to balance on one foot or carefully navigate obstacles, new sensors to perceive and map the world for robot navigation, and customer-ready, powerful onboard computer hardware. “We’re excited about the technical capabilities and advanced legged mobility of Digit”, said Dr. Jonathan Hurst, CTO of Agility. “Videos can show a solid proof of concept – but this robot is ready to go out in the world in the hands of customers, and start to really explore pragmatic use cases.”
Agility sold its breakthrough robot Cassie as a bipedal research platform from August 2017 through July 2019, and has spent the latter half of 2019 transitioning production over to Digit. “Digit represents a major milestone for Agility,” said Dr. Damion Shelton, CEO of Agility. “For the first time, a full humanoid robot – with both mobility and manipulation capabilities – will be available for customer applications in a wide variety of industries, both indoor and outdoor. We look forward to showing off our work on both logistics and non-logistics tasks in the coming months.”
Digit has been designed to walk upright without wasting energy, so it has no issue traversing the same types of environments most people do every day. Digit’s unique design also allows it to tightly fold itself up for easy storage in the back of a vehicle until it’s called into action. Once a vehicle arrives at its destination, Digit can be deployed to grab a package from the vehicle and carry out the final step in the delivery process. If it encounters an unexpected obstacle, it can send an image back to the vehicle to leverage additional computing power. The vehicle could even send that information into the cloud and request help from other systems to enable Digit to navigate, providing multiple levels of assistance that help keep the robot light and nimble. Digit’s light weight also helps ensure it has a long run time, which is essential for delivery businesses that operate continuously through the business day.
Two pre-production Digit prototypes will be on display at CES 2020 in Ford’s booth (#5002) from January 7-10 in Las Vegas.
About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company is a global company based in Dearborn, Michigan. The company designs, manufactures, markets and services a full line of Ford cars, trucks, SUVs, electrified vehicles and Lincoln luxury vehicles, provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company and is pursuing leadership positions in electrification, autonomous vehicles and mobility solutions. Ford employs approximately 191,000 people worldwide. For more information regarding Ford, its products and Ford Motor Credit Company, please visit corporate.ford.com.
About Agility Robotics, Inc.
Founded in 2015, Agility Robotics manufactures highly capable legged robots for diverse markets such as last-mile logistics, telepresence, automated inspection, entertainment, and academic research. By supplying legged machines that can go anywhere a person can go, Agility provides developers with a dramatic new mobility option to automate applications never before thought possible.
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