"World's first humanoid robot factory" will ship Digits in 2024
Agility Robotics is well into construction of a 70,000-sq-ft (6,503-sq-m) facility in Salem, Oregon, with the capacity to produce more than 10,000 units per year of the company's Digit humanoid robot – which will work alongside humans on the factory floor.
The new "RoboFab" manufacturing plant is set to open later this year, with customer deliveries expected to begin in 2024, and "general market availability" to commence in 2025. Agility expects to build "hundreds" of Digit humanoids in its first year, and scale up from there.
In the video below, Agility COO Aindrea Campbell compares the RoboFab factory to Henry Ford's first manufacturing operation.
"There was a point in time over a hundred years ago," she says, "when we had the world's first automobile factory. I think this is the same moment where we're now having the world's first humanoid robot factory, and someday, just like automobiles, humanoid robots will be all around the globe."
So what is Digit? Well, it's a 175-cm-tall (5-ft 9-in) tall bipedal robot weighing around 65 kg (141 lb). It can carry loads up to 16 kg (35 lb) in a pair of claw-like gripper hands, and it charges itself autonomously to theoretically stay on duty for 16 hours out of 24 – the equivalent of covering two full-time shifts.
It runs a similar set of bird-like backwards-looking legs to the company's Cassie robot, which broke the Guinness World Record for the fastest 100-meter sprint by a bipedal robot in 2022. Both have short upper legs that typically stay oriented forward in a knees-up stance, then long "calves" extending back behind the torso, and a high ankle joint where you'd normally expect to see a knee, leading down to smallish toe pads in contact with the ground.
The advantages here are that Digit can fold its legs up behind it in a way that would cause loud noises from the average human. It can also squat down in front of shelves to grab boxes without its knees protruding forward, so it can pick them up with less of a need to lean forward.
Equipped with camera vision and LiDAR, Digit has been around for several years now – you may remember it being proposed as a parcel-delivering robot by Ford back in 2019 – which would be remarkable. Who remembers things from 2019?
It can be controlled via a gamepad-style tablet (and e-stop shutdown initiator) and hard-coded with various tasks – mainly in the 'picking things up and putting them down' category. Interestingly though, in the last few months, Agility has been experimenting with using large language model (LLM) AIs, effectively to get Digit to program itself in response to natural language verbal commands, as shown in the video below.
Digit will start out moving boxes and totes around Agility's own factory, and those of its early customers. Next, the company hopes to get it loading and unloading trucks. There's little mention of more complex tasks at this point, so it seems Agility is happy to keep early use cases very constrained.
As to whether RoboFab is technically the world's first humanoid robot factory, well, that may be gilding the lily, since Chinese company Fourier Intelligence announced in July that it would have 100 of its GT-1 humanoids built and in the hands of customers by the end of this year – each with the capability to carry nearly its own weight.
Either way, it adds to a growing pile of evidence that the workforce is about to see yet another substantial change. There are now dozens of companies who have decided, and convinced investors, that the dawn of humanoid robot workers is very nearly upon us. Brace for change.
Source: Agility Robotics