If I, Robot, and the hundreds of other sci-fi movies are anything to go by, humanoid robots are the definition of futuristic. If you thought this reality was years away for us, then RoboFab is here to set things straight with the first humanoid robot factory in Salem, Oregon. Armed with the tag of “The Next Wave of Robotic Automation”, RoboFab’s Digit Robot is being prepped for launch in the next two years as we speak. The biped robots are set to change how we see the future of labor and we’re excited to see exactly how capable the tech is.
Agility Robotics to Introduce Humanoid Robots by 2025
With Agility Robotics’ CEO and co-founder Damion Shelton leading the revolution in robotics, the first humanoid robot factory, RoboFab, is expected to have an opening date set later this year. According to The Robot Report, the 6,500-square-meter humanoid robot factory should be able to scale up from its initial production numbers to produce over 10,000 robots per year. It should also boost employment in the Salem, Oregon area where it is based, with the likelihood of employing 500 workers. In an interesting turn of fate, the produced Digit robots will also aid in further production.
Introducing the Digit Robot: Robofab’s Humanoid Robot Offering
The Digit Robot is a humanoid, bipedal robot that is designed for agility and mobility. The human-like robot first made its debut in 2019 and has since been tested to assess its functionality in labor-intensive workspace where it can use its nimble limbs to navigate environments and perform tasks like moving objects and aiding in delivery.
“Our bi-pedal robot is designed to work alongside humans in just about any environment. Digit can take on tasks that are too repetitive, physically demanding, or dangerous for the humans it works with.”
Unlike many other humanoid robots that attempt to mimic human thought and emotion, the premise for the Digit robot is much simpler—help with labor without being intrusive. The smaller-sized robot is designed to aid in warehouses without adding to the towering dangers of the workspace. It is designed to balance and move like a human, with advanced sensors to navigate obstacles with ease. The Digit robot uses 4 actuators in each arm and six in each leg to enable movement, according to the Agility Robotics website. These allow the robot to handle heavy loads, have mobile joints, and imitate the flexibility of limbs seen in humans.
Humanoid Robot Testing: Digit Robot and the Real-World
Amazon’s commitment to tech and optimization is nothing new and reports indicate that the company used its Amazon Industrial Innovation Fund to assist Agility Robotics and its development of the Digit robot. The company page has shown its support for the humanoid robot as part of its mechanization initiatives, using the Digit robot primarily in tote recycling tasks within its warehouses. Designed for “repetitive material handling deployment” according to the Agility CEO, Digit is perfect for warehouse work that involves the movement of goods from one area to another, making Amazon a great business partner for its services.
Predating the conception of the humanoid robot factory, Agility Robotics’ most well-known endeavor was its collaboration with Ford Motor Company. With self-driving cars slowly becoming the new delivery system, the company found the last step of delivery difficult to navigate—dropping off the parcel at your doorstep. Combining the Digit robot’s more efficient operability, Ford tested how well the humanoid robot could take over the task, taking data from the self-driving car’s location mapping capabilities. While this isn’t a service that has been launched on a large scale, it shows the potential of the Digit robot.
How Soon Will the Humanoid Robot Factory Become Operational?
“We built Digit to solve difficult problems in today’s workforce like injuries, burnout, high turnover, and unfillable labor gaps, with the ultimate vision of enabling humans to be more human. When you’re building new technology to make society better, the most important milestone is when you’re able to mass produce that technology at a scale where it can have a real, widespread impact.”
– Damion Shelton, Agility Robotics CEO, Salem Statesman Journal
The next step in robotics appears to be the mass production of robots and while Digit is not the first humanoid robot to appear on the market, it might rise from the first humanoid robot factory. Other humanoid versions like Tesla’s Optimus and Engineering Arts’ Ameca are either in their trial phase or available for purchase on commission. Reports indicate that the robots could become available on a large scale in 2025. Those who join the Agility Partner Program can work with the robot as early as 2024.
Signs of the rising automation of labor can be seen everywhere and companies are now opening up to making more major investments in AI and robotics. Humanoid robots are far from perfect, but RoboFab and its Digit robot appear to be the next step in more large-scale availability of robots adapted to suit company needs. If the first humanoid robot factory is a success, it is likely that more such facilities will follow suit, providing robotics tech and assistance in niche fields.