featured image 104 Humanoid robots are doing some lifting in Amazon's warehouses. But is the human form the ideal shape for the task?

By clicking “Sign Up”, you accept our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy . You can opt-out at any time.

Access your favorite topics in a personalized feed while you’re on the go. download the app

Sign up to get the inside scoop on today’s biggest stories in markets, tech, and business — delivered daily. Read preview

Amazon’s human workforce is getting to know their robot co-workers as the company begins testing Agility Robotics’ Digit in its US warehouses.

Digit is a two-legged robot that can walk, lift boxes, and won’t come with many of the costs associated with human employees, given it costs only $10 to $12 an hour to operate, according to Agility Robotics CEO Damion Shelton. But is Amazon making a mistake by investing in humanoid robots for warehouse tasks?

This story is available exclusively to Business Insider subscribers. Become an Insider and start reading now.


Boston Dynamics CTO Aaron Saunders told TechCrunch in an interview published Saturday that while humanoid robots have “great potential” in closing the “technology gap” and will be crucial in the field of “general-purpose robotics,” the human shape isn’t always the ideal form for specific jobs — including moving boxes.

“Humanoids aren’t necessarily the best form factor for all tasks … Just because humans can move boxes doesn’t mean we’re the best form factor to complete that task,” Saunders said, adding that Boston Dynamics’ robot Stretch — an automated mobile robot that has a crane-like arm and moves on wheels — isn’t a humanoid and, as a result, can “move boxes more efficiently and effectively than a human.”


One of Agility Robotics’ selling points for Digit is the robot’s ability to adapt to existing warehouse infrastructure and floorplans that weren’t necessarily designed for robots and automation. According to the company, it can also lift objects of various sizes and weights.

“Imagine robots working in spaces built for people alongside people,” a narrator says in an ad for Digit, describing the five-foot, nine-inch, robot with smiling eyes as “approachable.”

“The mobility of Digits’ upright bipedal design allows it to integrate flawlessly into existing infrastructure. No building permits, power drops, or floorplan changes required,” the ad says.

But Boston Dynamics also claims to have achieved something similar with Stretch, a robot with a crane-like arm that moves on wheels.

Mike Fair, Boston Dynamics’ lead product manager of warehouse robotics, said in a presentation that some of the benefits of Stretch are its mobility and flexibility.


“It is a mobile robot, so it can go anywhere work needs to be done, and it’s flexible. It can drop into existing facilities or existing infrastructure and get to work within just a matter of days,” Fair said.

Boston Dynamics also advertises that Stretch has the potential to be a “multipurpose robot” capable of performing different tasks throughout the warehouse, including depalletizing items and loading trucks.

A Boston Dynamics spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent during the weekend.

However, Agility Robotics’ vision for its humanoid robot is arguably more ambitious.


While Digit’s current application focuses only on moving packages, the company says on its website that the robot’s next application will be unloading trailers and, down the road, last-mile delivery service to people’s homes. In comparison, Stretch’s current and future applications appear to be limited to warehouse spaces.

Ford became one of Digit’s first customers in 2020, announcing plans to use the bipedal robot for last-mile package deliveries as car companies brace for a future where self-driving cars can make home deliveries.

Spokespersons for Amazon and Agility Robotics did not respond to a request for comment sent during the weekend.
Source and Read More: https://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-testing-humanoid-robots-digit-warehouses-agility-robotics-boston-dynamics-2023-12

Related Post