Warehouse workers face new competition: A humanlike robot


Agility Robotics’ robot Digit performs maneuvers at the company’s office in Pittsburgh. Standing at 5 feet, 9 inches and weighing 140 pounds (64kg), Digit can only carry 35 pounds (15kg). Its battery pack now lasts about two hours, but that run time is expected to double with the production model, Shelton said. — AP

Warehouse workers could soon face new competition from robots: GXO Logistics Inc is testing a humanoid model at its facility in Flowery Branch, Georgia.

The robot, nicknamed Digit and made by Agility Robotics, a Corvallis, Oregon-based startup, is a little slow grabbing the Spanx apparel and putting it on a conveyor belt, but promises to get better with time.

Agility Robotics has attracted investment from Amazon.com Inc and is opening a production facility in Salem, Oregon, that will eventually have capacity to produce up to 10,000 robots a year, said Damion Shelton, chief executive officer and co-founder, in a telephone interview.

The robot has some limitations. Standing at 5 feet, 9 inches and weighing 140 pounds (64kg), Digit can only carry 35 pounds (15kg). Its battery pack now lasts about two hours, but that run time is expected to double with the production model, Shelton said.

Taking into account the price of the robot and its lifespan of about 20,000 hours, the price tag to operate it is about US$10 to US$12 an hour. With increased production, that cost is expected to fall to US$2 or US$3 an hour plus overhead for software, Shelton said.

The robot’s human shape allows it to operate in spaces designed for workers. With two feet, the robot can step over objects, and its two arms allow it to reach for things, Shelton said.

The robot’s human coworkers appreciate the help. “It’s awesome to see Digit help minimise the strain for my peers,” said Jesus Islas, an associate planner at the warehouse.

Digit isn’t the only humanoid robot out there. Elon Musk has touted Tesla Inc’s Optimus robot concept. The Atlas robot made by Boston Dynamics, which was acquired by Hyundai Motor Co in 2021, can do back flips.

Demand for autonomous mobile robots – flat devices that run on wheels and can carry items around warehouses – has exploded because they eliminate the need for workers to walk across cavernous warehouses. Whether humanoid robots become more widely used will depend on how practical and cost-effective the machines are, said Jeff Burnstein, president of the Association for Advancing Automation.

“Just like with every other robotic development, it comes down to the business case,” he said. – Bloomberg

Follow us on our official WhatsApp channel for breaking news alerts and key updates!

   

Next In Tech News

Maxis, Amazon Web Services collaborate to drive generative AI innovation, 5G use cases
Tax-free status of movie, music and games traded online is on table as WTO nations meet in Abu Dhabi
Firefighter caught filming 14-year-old girl showering and is arrested, US cops say
Tech activists write code to save migrants in the Mediterranean
India's 'insourcing' boom does not spell doom for outsourcing, tech execs say
Air-taxi plan for Paris at risk of missing Olympics deadline
Mexican president slams YouTube for taking down his video that shared a journalist's phone number
China makeup artist recreates youth, takes years off actor, 57, transforms ordinary women into cover girls, becomes smash hit online
MWC 2024: Smartphone makers bet on AI to revive sales
Ookla president: Malaysia's top spot on 5G consistency score well-deserved

Others Also Read