According to an announcement made at the Delivering the Future event in Seattle, Amazon will begin testing Agility’s Digit robot in its nationwide fulfillment centers. While this initial deal is in the early stages and does not guarantee future implementation, Amazon’s interest in Agility’s technology is evident.
Agility, one of the first five recipients of Amazon’s $1 billion Industrial Innovation Fund, specializes in developing robots for warehouse and factory work. Despite Amazon Robotics primarily utilizing wheeled locomotion, the company is intrigued by the possibilities that walking robots present, including the ability to navigate different terrains.
Amazon’s focus on wheeled autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) began with the acquisition of Kiva Systems in 2012. These AMRs, as well as other non-AMR systems, have played a significant role in influencing the use of industrial robotics in the logistics industry.
For Amazon to integrate a new robot system into its ecosystem, it must demonstrate increased productivity and align with the company’s scale of operations. The challenge lies in matching Amazon’s extensive scale while also addressing specific operational requirements, such as shelving heights, terrain variations, and aisle widths.
Agility’s Digit, although less human-looking than other humanoid robots, has gained substantial funding and has a head start in the industry. However, proving the effectiveness of humanoid robots on a large scale remains a significant challenge. The success or failure of Digit could shape the future of humanoid robots in the industry.
While Digit is a crucial part of Amazon’s mobile manipulation plans, it is not the only solution in consideration. Amazon aims to combine sensing, compute, and actuation technologies to explore innovative possibilities. This could involve mounting a robot arm on an AMR to create a mobile manipulation system.
If Digit does not fit seamlessly into Amazon’s existing workflows, it does not indicate the end of bipedal robots. There is an ongoing pursuit to find the most effective automation solutions, and Amazon’s interest in robotics is driven by enhancing customer service and ensuring employee safety.
– Announcement made at the Delivering the Future event in Seattle
– Interview with Tye Brady, Amazon Robotics chief technologist