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Amazon deploys agility robotics' digit humanoid in latest warehouse automation push

In its relentless pursuit of operational optimization, Amazon has turned to an unlikely new warehouse ally - Digit, a human-like robot created by Agility Robotics. The e-commerce giant has been testing Digit robots for several months at one of its warehouses near Seattle.



Amazon is no stranger to warehouse automation, having deployed over 750,000 robotic systems like autonomousmobile robots and robotic arms. However, Digit represents Amazon's first foray into leveraging humanoid robots designed to move and operate in environments built for humans.


"Integrating robots like Digit is about augmenting our workforce, not replacing it," an Amazon spokesperson stated. "The idea is to reduce repetitive tasks and minimize safety risks for our associates in warehouses."


For Agility, the Amazon pilot marks a significant milestone after years of research and development on its bipedal robot. Digit previously explored home delivery applications with Ford and order processing duties for clothing brand Spanx. But the Amazon deployment is its highest-profile commercial test yet.


In the Amazon warehouse, Digit's current role is fairly simple but incredibly repetitive - removing empty plastic totes from racks and ferrying them to conveyors. The 5'8" robot marches back and forth mimicking the motions of a human worker but with unwavering consistency.


What makes Digit special is its unique quadrupedal design inspired by grasshoppers. This gives it the ability to easily squat, pick up objects, navigate uneven terrain, and climb stairs - crucial for dynamic warehouse environments. It can carry payloads up to 40 lbs in its grasping arms.


While simple tote transportation may seem mundane, it's an important testbed for Digit to demonstrate reliable autonomous operation safely around human workers. Agility envisions eventually expanding Digit's repertoire to more complex tasks like unloading trucks, breaking down pallets, and other logistics roles.


To meet anticipated demand, Agility is currently constructing "RoboFab" - a 70,000 square foot factory in Oregon focused on mass-producing Digit. The company aims to deploy initial batches to customers like Amazon within a year before gradually ramping up to thousands of units annually.


"Digit and humanoid robots represent  an exciting frontier for automating workflow in human-centered spaces like factories and warehouses," said Agility CEO Dr. Damion Shelton. "Our collaboration with Amazon is helping realize that potential."


As labor shortages persist and pressures to improve efficiency intensify, Digit offers a glimpse at how humanoid robotics could soon become an integral part of supply chains and industrial operations. Amazon's willingness to integrate this cutting-edge technology demonstrates its commitment to exploring innovative automation solutions.


While robots like Digit won't fully replace human workers anytime soon, their presence will likely grow in workplaces optimized for safety and productivity through human-robot collaboration. Companies like Amazon are pioneering that future today.

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