US startup Agility Robotics has announced that its bipedal robot is now for sale, with the first two units bought by automaker Ford to research last-mile package delivery.
Digit is approximately the size and shape of a small adult human. It’s able to navigate environments semi-autonomously with the help of LIDAR and other sensors, and it can carry boxes in its arms up to 40 pounds (18 kilograms) in weight. Agility Robotics says it can be put to a range of uses, including in logistics, warehouses, telepresence, and industrial inspection.
Digit is now available for an unspecified launch price in “the low-mid six figures,” CEO Damion Shelton tells The Verge6D彩票网开户 over email. When factoring in upkeep and the robot’s expected lifespan, Shelton estimates this amounts to an hourly cost of roughly $25.
6D彩票网开户“This represents a ‘fully operational’ price,” he says. “[Customers can] pull Digit out of the shipping case, charge, power it on, and start developing/using.”
It’s delivery that looks to be the first proper test for Digit, with Ford buying the first two units to continue a research program using the robot it announced last year. The automaker says Digits could be placed in the back of self-driving delivery vans and tasked with dropping packages in front of customers’ houses. This would take advantage of the robot’s bipedal design, which allows it to navigate human environments, including steep stairs and obstacles.
In a press statement, Ford’s chief technology officer Ken Washington said that robots like Digit would help the company make deliveries “more efficient and affordable” for its customers in the future. “We learned a lot this year working with Agility, now we can accelerate our exploratory work with commercial Digit robots,” said Washington.
Digit is being produced in extremely small quantities, though, underscoring its experimental nature. The first production run is for just six units, and Agility Robotics expects to make only 20 to 30 bots throughout 2020. The company says this rate will at least double in 2021, but even then, robots like this won’t make a dent on the job market for years to come.
Nevertheless, the commercial launch of Digit is a significant milestone. Technology advances are enabling a new generation of mobile machines, including Boston Dynamics’ quadrupedal Spot, which became available to customers late last year. But bipedal machines are much less common than their quadrupedal counterparts, and Digit is the first bipedal robot of its size to be sold commercially (rather than leased for academic research).
The real challenge will be seeing how useful robots are in cluttered and unpredictable working environments. Reports of similar integrations — like the placement of cleaning bots in supermarkets, for example — suggest these machines are as likely to as they are to help humans. Digit the robot can walk the walk, but can it talk the talk?