From Terminator to, stories of humanoid robots have remained a persistent theme in science fiction. These films raise important questions about ethics, labor and humankind’s ability to control the technologies we create.
Now, humanoid robots are closer than ever to becoming part of the fabric of society. Agility Robotics CTO Jonathan Hurst has told CNET that his company’s humanoid robot Digit is being deployed “in the next two years,” with plans for Digit to join the workforce.
He said the rollout of Digit will begin in warehouses, where the robot will learn to work alongside people in a structured environment. Next, Digit will learn to unload to unload trailers. Eventually, the company hopes to see Digit delivering packages to people’s doorstep.
To help it navigate different work environments, Digit is equipped with depth sensors and lidar, which allows it to navigate different environments and plan its steps to avoid obstacles.
Of course, Digit isn’t the only humanoid robot making headlines. Boston Dynamics has long captured our imaginations with, its backflipping, somersaulting, acrobatic robot. Tesla has also thrown its hat into the ring, saying it’s working on a humanoid robot named Tesla Bot.
When asked how Digit stacks up to the competition, Hurst explains that Digit aims to work with people, whereas Atlas is primarily a research robot. Digit is more efficient, as most of its power draw comes from computing rather than locomotion. Hurst also said that, while Tesla Bot hasn’t been built yet, it seems to share similar goals to Digit in terms of integrating humanoid robots into society.
A spokesperson from Boston Dynamics confirmed that “Atlas is a research platform [used] to develop new hardware and software technologies for high-performance mobile robots” and that “the power drawn by the actuation system is higher than the onboard computers for parkour behaviors.” Tesla didn’t respond to a request for comment.
While many sci-fi films have wrestled with the various concerns about shaping plastic and metal into human form and animating them with electricity, Hurst’s vision for a robot-populated world is much more benign. He shared his vision for a future where delivery robots are bringing food to your door, helping around the house, and even acting as telepresence robots for visiting friends and loved ones far away.
To see Digit in action, check out the video embedded in this article.