5 top mobile robots launched in 2023

collage of mobile robots including Brightpic autopicker, Relay2 AMR, Agility Robotics Digit and Burro.
Some noteworthy mobile robots of 2023. Credit: Agility Robotics, Brightpick, Relay Robotics, Burro Robotics

Significant progress has been made in the development of mobile robots during 2023, bringing science fiction one step closer to reality. Not only are these intelligent devices transforming the industrial landscape, but they are also integrating themselves into our daily lives.

Let’s take a look at the top five mobile robotics systems introduced in 2023 that are transforming the way we work, live, and interact with technology.

5. Titan by Amazon Robotics

Amazon announced its new Titan mobile robot
The new Titan mobile robot can handle 2,500-lb. payloads. Source: Amazon

Last month, Amazon.com unveiled its Titan mobile robot, capable of lifting up to 2,500 lb. (1,133.9 kg), to efficiently move goods between its distribution hubs. The robot, developed over 10 years, is twice as powerful as its most widely used robot, Hercules, which can carry up to 1,250 lb. (566.9 kg).

Amazon’s SAT1 fulfillment center in San Antonio, Texas, is deploying Titan with other robots and its Sequoia containerization technology to reduce employee workload. The company launched Hercules in 2017 and has continued to upgrade the robot.

Amazon’s Pegasus is another autonomous mobile robot (AMR) that includes a conveyor. The company introduced Proteus, its first fully autonomous robot, last year.

4. Burro by Burro Robotics

image of the burro with a mower attached taken at the 2023 world ag expo.
Burro robot with optional mower deck, illustrating one possible use case. | Credit: Mobile Robot Guide

Burro Robotics was an early innovator in the agricultural robotics market, identifying the opportunity to move smaller loads of items like crates of picked fruit, bags of fertilizer, soil, and tools around the farm. The company has tenaciously pursued this opportunity over the past decade.

The company has now delivered the eighth generation of its mobile robot. In August, it continued to expand Burro’s capabilities with auto charging, better sensors, and improved path planning and task management.

A big benefit for Burro is that farm hands can see how the machine could make their lives easier and improve their efficiency in the field by autonomously moving filled crates to end-of-row consolidation points.

3. Relay2 by Relay Robotics

Relay2 delivery robot
An illustration showing the new configurable payload area of the Relay2 mobile delivery robot. | Credit: Relay Robotics

Relay Robotics was reborn from the ashes of Savioke Robotics, an early innovator in mobile robots for the hospitality industry. It released Relay2 in June with several significant revisions from the original Relay AMR.

The primary use case for Relay2 is the delivery of sundries and room service food from hotel front desks to guests in their rooms. Nearly every hotel is multi-floor and requires the use of an elevator to move between floors.

Elevators have been a barrier for every mobile service robot since they were first introduced a decade ago. Integrating with elevator controls is both a technical and a regulatory hurdle, often delaying project implementation by months.

The original Relay robot implemented a mechanical arm to push elevator buttons. While this removed the regulatory hurdle, the original Relay wasn’t reliable in implementation.

Relay2 includes improved integration with elevator controls, and Relay Robotics now has relationships with all of the major elevator companies and a library of tools to speed the integration process.

2. Autopicker by Brightpick

brightpick autopicker mobile robot in a warehouse aisle
Autopicker uses an onboard mobile manipulator to pull individual items from bulk inventory. | Credit: Brightpick

Brightpick launched Autopicker in February 2023 to solve one of the holy grail robotics applications — eaches picking in the warehouse aisle. The system combines technologies to pull individual items from the warehouse shelf without the need to move bulk inventory long distances to and from warehouse shelves for picking operations.

Autopicker employs a SCARA robot arm mounted onto an AMR plus 3D vision to pull bulk inventory bins from warehouse shelves, pull individual SKUs, and return the bulk inventory to storage.

Brightpick is a subsidiary of Photoneo, a provider of 3D vision and perception technologies. The Autopicker leverages Photoneo’s years of experience in robot vision guidance to solve the eaches-picking problem.

1. Next-generation Digit by Agility Robotics

agility robots in a warehouse.
Digit humanoid robots picking totes in a warehouse demonstration. | Credit: Agility Robotics

Leading the pack of humanoid robots is the next generation of Agility Robotics’ Digit. The company in March said it has enhanced the features of its humanoid robot for various applications.

Digit stands about 5 ft., 9 in. (1.75 m) tall and weighs about 140 lb. (63.5 kg). Updates in the latest generation include newly designed end effectors optimized for reaching high or low, pulling, picking up, and placing objects commonly found in e-commerce and shipping warehouses, such as plastic totes.

Agility has added a head with LED animated eyes for improved human-robot interaction such as using simple expressions to convey information and intent. For example, the new Digit uses body language and eye movement to indicate which direction it is about to turn.

Other evolved features include upgraded sensors and cameras, increased battery capacity, longer run time, improved rate of charging, and a new charging dock.

Agility Robotics also broke ground this year on a new robot factory in Oregon that it said could build more than 10,000 robots per year once it’s fully operational. Leading the way to commercial use, the company announced that Amazon and GXO Logistics are testing the Digit humanoid in real-world applications in the warehouse.

Honorable mention: Humanoid robot race heats up

The race for fully functional humanoids heated up in 2023 with multiple new product announcements, including well-known brands like Tesla. In May 2023, Sanctuary AI unveiled its Phoenix robot.

Then in July 2023, Fourier Intelligence announced the GR-01. Late in the summer, Apptronik demonstrated the first live videos of its Apollo humanoid.

In the fall, Figure finally lifted the veil of secrecy on its Figure 01. The company demonstrated that platform after an intense 12 months of product development.

Not to be outdone, Tesla demonstrated the functionality of Optimus Generation 2 in December 2023.

All of these humanoid robots are at various stages of development. Agility Robotics and Fourier are taking orders for delivery in 2024.

However, it may be several years before the Tesla Optimus is available on the general market, as the robot is being developed and tested initially for deployment in Tesla automotive factories. That leaves Apptronik, Sanctuary, and Figure in a head-to-head race to see which humanoid will come to market first.

Mobile robots continue to mature

The year 2023 has marked a significant chapter in the evolution of mobile robots. From the tenacity of Relay’s team to the efficiency of Autopicker, the hardiness of Burro, and the foot race among humanoids, these robots collectively showcase the diverse and transformative potential of robotics in various domains.

These mobile robots are not just machines; they are harbingers of a future where human-robot collaboration becomes the norm. Whether it’s enhancing industrial workflows, revolutionizing logistics, or providing companionship, these intelligent machines could play a pivotal role in shaping our world. The future is arriving on wheels and two (or more) legs, and they are finding real work, from warehouses and farms to hotels.

The table below summarizes the product announcements and product launches that Mobile Robot Guide covered this past year.

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Download the Top Mobile Robots of 2023 table here.

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Written by

Mike Oitzman

Mike Oitzman is Senior Editor of WTWH's Robotics Group, cohost of The Robot Report Podcast, and founder of the Mobile Robot Guide. Oitzman is a robotics industry veteran with 25-plus years of experience at various high-tech companies in the roles of marketing, sales and product management. He can be reached at moitzman@wtwhmedia.com.