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Ford ‘Hires’ a Humanoid Robot

Digit, the humanoid robot could be at your door.

As a company, Ford Motors has always sought to pioneer new ways to make their manufacturing and retail processes better. It started with the revolutionary moving assembly line in 1913, and with 2020 just a week old, they’re looking to be on the forefront again. Ford Motor Company is the first customer to purchase Digit, a humanoid robot designed to work alongside humans in the workplace. Digit looks like it’s pretty simply constructed, even though it still feels like it is walking backwards to me.  I guess that’s just my human brain playing tricks on me.

Humanoid might be too strong a word. Designed by Ford partner, Agility Robotics, Digit simply has two legs, two arms, and a torso. A far cry from anything you’d see in your nightmare-robot-takeovers, but way beyond anything you’ve seen this commercially accessible. The goal of Digit is to make storing inventory in a warehouse and delivering it to customers as simple and quick as possible.

 “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, vice president, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering, and Chief Technology Officer. “We learned a lot this year working with Agility, now we can accelerate our exploratory work with commercial Digit robots,” 

Digit won’t just have indoor functionality, the robot is also designed to carry out the final stages of actually delivering a product to the customer. Beyond that, Digit is also being designed to “talk” with Ford’s newer vehicles. Digit can store things like map data and updates to the software that run your car. Still, in the realm of package delivery, Digit still looks to shine. Digit will be able to store information regarding how and where customers want packages delivered. The same channel will allow Digit to alert handlers if something goes wrong or if it encounters an issue it can’t resolve. 

“Digit represents a major milestone for Agility,” said Dr. Damion Shelton, CEO of Agility Robotics. “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.”

Check out careers at Agility Robotics to get a sense of what skills might be needed as robotics and automation become more mainstream.  

*Article by Raz Robinson, journalist and freelance writer, based in New York City. Connect with him on LinkedIn, follow him on Twitter @razrobinson or send an email to Rrob0904 (at) gmail (dot) com.

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