Ford becomes first customer to incorporate Agility Robotics into factory

The car manufacturer debuts the first two robots off the line at CES 2020 and will use them to explore autonomous vehicle businesses, for warehousing and delivery.

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Digit

Image: Agility Robotics

Agility Robotics announced that Ford Motor Company will become their first customer, purchasing two of their innovative robots for their factories and for deliveries. Agility will be displaying two pre-production prototypes of the robot at CES 2020 in Ford's booth.

The company's robot, named Digit, is built with arms and legs so it can work alongside humans in warehousing and delivery. The first prototype of Digit was unveiled in May 2019, and Ford will receive the first two robots they've built for sale. 

SEE: More CES 2020 coverage (TechRepublic)

Partnership strives to make warehousing and delivery more efficient, affordable

Agility Robotics and Ford have been working together for the past few months on ways to help commercial vehicle customers, including autonomous vehicle businesses, make warehousing and delivery more efficient and affordable, according to a statement from Agility. 

"As online retailing continues growing, we believe robots will help our commercial customers build stronger businesses by making deliveries more efficient and affordable for all of us." said Ken Washington, chief technology officer and vice president of Ford Research and Advanced Engineering. "We learned a lot this year working with Agility, and now we can accelerate our exploratory work with commercial Digit robots."

Agility has been refining Digit since May, adding different features to the robot as they prepared it for commercial sale. It can now get around obstacles thanks to new sensors that help it map their world around it, and it is equipped with powerful hardware that even allows it to balance on one foot. 

The company's first robot, named Cassie, was sold starting in 2017 but since July 2019, the company has been transitioning all of their efforts toward promoting Digit. 

"We're excited about the technical capabilities and advanced legged mobility of Digit. Videos can show a solid proof of concept -- but this robot is ready to go out in the world in the hands of customers, and start to really explore pragmatic use cases," said Dr. Jonathan Hurst, CTO of Agility.

Digit's features optimal for industries

Digit comes with a bevy of features that make it optimal for usage in factories like the ones Ford has. It can walk upright and can tightly fold itself so it can be stored in a car. 

Beyond the factory floor, Digit can serve as an integral part of the delivery process. For deliveries made with vehicles, Digit can be deployed to take packages from a truck and put it on a doorstep. If the robot encounters any issues, it can send photos back to the driver or upload it to the cloud where ask for help from other systems. 
 
Both companies plan to do more research into how Digit and Ford's commercial vehicles can communicate through advanced connectivity technology. 

"Digit represents a major milestone for Agility," said Agility CEO Dr. Damion Shelton. "For the first time, a full humanoid robot -- with both mobility and manipulation capabilities --will be available for customer applications in a wide variety of industries, both indoor and outdoor. We look forward to showing off our work on both logistics and non-logistics tasks in the coming months."

For more, check out the CES 2020 Preview on CNET.     

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Digit

Image: Agility Robotics