Digit humanoid from Agility Robotics gets its first official gig

Agility Robotics continues to have a leg up in the humanoid race. The Corvallis, Ore.-based company today signed a multi-year deal with GXO Logistics Inc., the world’s largest pure-play contract logistics provider, to deploy its Digit humanoids in various logistics operations.

The first official deployment of Digit is already up and running, generating real revenue for Agility Robotics, the inaugural RBR50 Robot of the Year winner.

GXO said it is commercially deploying a “small fleet” of Digit robots at a Spanx facility in Connecticut. The logistics provider is paying Agility Robotics under a robotics-as-a-service (RaaS) model.

The companies didn’t reveal how many humanoids Spanx is using or specifics of their RaaS agreement. They claimed that this is both the industry’s first formal commercial deployment of humanoids and the first RaaS deployment of such robots.

“There will be many firsts in the humanoid robot market in the years to come, but I’m extremely proud of the fact that Agility is the first with actual humanoid robots deployed at a customer site, generating revenue, and solving real-world business problems,” stated Peggy Johnson, CEO of Agility Robotics. “Agility has always been focused on the only metric that matters — delivering value to our customers by putting Digit to work — and this milestone deployment raises the bar for the entire industry.”

Johnson was named CEO of Agility Robotics in March. She is a veteran technology leader who most recently served as CEO of Magic Leap, which produces augmented reality headsets. Johnson led the company’s shift from consumer to enterprise focus and recapitalized Magic Leap. She spoke about the deployment with CNBC, below:

Digit moves totes from AMRs at Spanx

In the video at the top of this article of Digit at the Spanx facility, the initial application appears to be similar to the proof-of-concept pilot conducted in late 2023. The robot picks up totes from 6 River Systems‘ Chuck autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) and places the totes onto conveyors.

As you can see in the video, Digit can pick up totes that are empty or full of women’s shapewear products. The robot can also pick up totes from either the bottom of top shelf of an AMR. All of this work is orchestrated through Agility Arc, the company’s cloud automation platform for deploying and managing Digit fleets.

Under the RaaS agreement, the companies will continue to explore additional use cases and scale Digit usage to meet demand throughout the deployment.

Digit is 5 ft. 9 in. (5.7 m) tall, weighs 140 lb. (63.5 kg), and can lift up to 35 lb. (15.8 kg). Agility recently introduced a new end effector called Manipulation Tool 2 (MT 2). The company said it is taking a modular approach to grasping and will eventually allow users to swap out end effectors based on the task at hand.

“Our R&D approach is to partner with developers all over the world to help them build and validate practical use cases that improve the working environment for our employees while optimizing operations for our customers,” said Adrian Stoch, chief automation officer at GXO Logistics. “Agility shares this philosophy, and Digit is the perfect addition to work alongside our people in our fulfillment center. We’re delighted to progress our partnership through this critical milestone.”

a Digit humanoid carrying a tote at a Spanx warehouse in Ga.
GXO signed a multi-year deal to formally deploy the Digit humanoid in warehouses. | Credit: Agility Robotics

The humanoid robot race accelerates

This is a major milestone for Agility Robotics, which was founded in 2015. The company initially built the Cassie robot for researchers and developers before turning its attention to commercial humanoids. But Agility can’t rest on its laurels.

Not only does a new bipedal robot or startup seemingly launch each month, GXO isn’t putting all of its eggs into one basket. On top of using various types of robots, GXO just last week announced that it is also testing Apollo from Apptronik.

Boston Dynamics, Figure, Fourier Intelligence, Sanctuary, Tesla, and Unitree are just a few other companies also working on commercial humanoids. Jerry Pratt quietly left his chief technology officer position at Figure AI to launch a humanoid startup with fellow robotics veteran Nicolaus Radford called Persona AI. China wants in on the action, saying it will mass-produce humanoids by 2025.

Digit won the inaugural RBR50 Robot of the Year Award by demonstrating the ability for humanoids to perform real-world work. Amazon has also tested Digit for tote-recycling tasks, but it’s unclear where that partnership stands. We have reached out to Agility Robotics and GXO to learn more.

There are no safety standards for humanoids at the moment. Most manufacturers and integrators are leveraging existing industrial robot standards to put a baseline together. Digit is not working with or near humans at the Spanx facility.

ASTM International launched the F45.06 Legged Robot Systems committee to develop test and performance standards. IEEE’s Robotics & Automation Society recently formed of a new study group that will look into the current humanoid landscape and then develop a roadmap for future standards.

Written by

Steve Crowe

Steve Crowe is Executive Editor, Robotics, WTWH Media, and chair of the Robotics Summit & Expo and RoboBusiness. He is also co-host of The Robot Report Podcast, the top-rated podcast for the robotics industry.

He joined WTWH Media in January 2018 after spending four-plus years as Managing Editor of Robotics Trends Media. He can be reached at scrowe@wtwhmedia.com