Amazon has introduced a new humanoid robot named Digit into its warehouse operations, marking a significant advancement in its robotic technology. Created by Agility Robotics, in which Amazon has invested, Digit stands out with its human-like appearance, complete with a turquoise torso and smiley eyes. It's a departure from the company's previous warehouse robots, which have typically been cart-shaped or robotic arms.
Operating Digit currently costs about $10 to $12 an hour, but Agility Robotics CEO Damion Shelton anticipates this cost could drop to $2 to $3 an hour plus software overhead as production increases. Despite concerns about job replacement, Amazon maintains that Digit is meant to work collaboratively with employees, not replace them. The company has been progressively increasing its robot fleet, with around 750,000 robots already working alongside human employees in various capacities.
Amazon's robot lineup includes characters named after "Sesame Street" and "The Muppets," as well as Proteus, an autonomous warehouse robot, and Sparrow, a picking robot arm introduced in 2022. Digit is uniquely designed to operate in human-oriented spaces, initially assisting with tote recycling in warehouses.
While Amazon champions its robots for enhancing employee safety and experience, there are concerns about the potential for robots to eventually reduce the company's reliance on human labor. A report from Reveal suggested higher injury rates in Amazon's robotic warehouses, a claim Amazon disputed, stating that robotic sites had lower incident rates compared to non-robotic sites in 2022.
As Amazon continues to expand its robotic technology, the balance between human and robotic labor in its operations remains a topic of ongoing discussion and observation.