Digit: The Smart Delivery Robot


Online shopping has exploded in the past decade, and with that so has the amount of packages delivered on a regular basis. In 2018 the U.S. Postal Service alone delivered more than 6 billion packages which is double the volume it was handling about 10 years ago.


This issue puts a lot of pressure on deliverers, but to help out Ford has teamed up with Agility Robotics a team based in Albany OR that specializes in bipedal locomotion in robots. With Ford and Agility Robotics together they hope to change the way that we make deliveries, and it starts with changing the way we think about autonomy.


Self driving vehicles have long been thought of as a great way to solve the delivery issue, there’s just one problem: the vehicles can’t bring the package up to the door. That’s where this new partnership comes into play, that’s where Digit comes in.


Digit is a two-legged robot designed and built by Agility Robotics to not only approximate the look of a human, but to walk like one too. Digit was made with lightweight material to make it very mobile and agile, but that doesn’t mean it can’t lift packages. In fact, Digit can lift up to 40 pounds.


Digit is the perfect delivery robot because it can go up and down stairs, walk naturally across uneven terrain, and even compensate for being bumped into. These are incredibly important skills for a robot that we as humans take for granted. Imagine a child’s bike is in the way of the door, we’d easily navigate that “hazard” but some robots like say one that vacuums the floor would have a big problem. Not Digit, like people Digit can problem solve and find another route around the bike.


Digit’s unique design allows it to be folded up into a small package if you will. This means digit can ride in the back of the delivery vehicle with the packages without taking up too much space. Once the vehicle arrives at the destination Digit unfolds and gets to work.


The most interesting thing about Digit is that it’s not alone. If Digit runs into an obstacle that it can’t navigate it sends the information to delivery vehicle which will map a solution for it. The two autonomous entities are partners in the delivery process from factory to destination.


Through Ford’s collaboration with Agility Robotics the company hopes to determine the best way for vehicles to cooperate with Digit and understand how this new delivery method can be fully taken advantage of in the future. Hopefully this removes some of the stresses that come with today’s door to door marketplace.

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