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Agility's Digit warehouse robot understands natural language commands thanks to AI smarts

“Take the box that’s the color of Darth Vader’s lightsaber, and move it to the tallest tower in the front row.”

Agility Robotics

Agility Robotics shared a demo video Wednesday of one of its Digit robots upgraded with AI. Although that may conjure terrifying pop-culture images of sentient sci-fi machines taking over the world, the demo video reveals something much more pedestrian, if not boring. The bipedal warehouse robot ploddingly works to complete a slightly puzzling task without direct human control or detailed guidance. In the clip, it slowly but successfully interprets and executes the command, “Take the box that’s the color of Darth Vader’s lightsaber, and move it to the tallest tower in the front row.”

The company, which added a “head” and “hands” to Digit earlier this year, pitches the demonstration as a glimpse into how large language models (LLMs) can enhance its humanoid machines. It suggests it’s a natural fit, describing Digit as “a physical embodiment of artificial intelligence.”

“We created a demo space with a series of numbered towers of several heights, as well as three boxes with multiple defining characteristics,” Pras Velagapudi, Agility Robotics’ vice president of innovation and chief architect, explained in the clip. “Digit was given information about this environment, but was not given any specific information about its tasks. Just natural language commands of varying complexity to see if it could execute them.”

Still from a demo video of the Digit robot holding a red crate. An overlay on the lower left reveals the robot’s inner monologue, while one on the lower right shows a 3D map the robot uses for navigation.
Agility Robotics

The clip shows Digit’s beat-by-beat inner monologue overlaid on the screen as the robot thinks its way through the task. For example, “I should find out what commands I can use,” “I should first assess the environment to see what items and locations are available,” and “Darth Vader’s light saber is red, and so the red box (box2) is the one I need to move. The tallest tower in the front row is tower4. I will first move to the location of box2.”

After moving to the location of the red box, Digit continues. “Now that I’m at the location of box2, I should pick it up,” it reasons. It continues, “Now that I have box2, I should move to the location of the tallest tower in the front row, which is tower4” and “Now that I’m at tower4, I should place box2 on it.” Finally, it declares its work finished: “I believe I have completed the task, as I have moved the box that is the color of Darth Vader’s light saber (red, box2) to the tallest tower in the front row (tower4).”

Agility Robotics, which pitches Digit as sparing human workers from the most taxing physical activities, says it created the demo to “show how LLMs could make our robots more versatile and faster to deploy.” The company is building an Oregon factory to produce 10,000 humanoid robots annually. It has also inked a deal with Amazon for the retailer to test Digit in a Seattle-area facility. Fiction-fueled fears aside, the robots are much more likely to hurt humans by stealing their warehouse jobs than by shapeshifting, murdering innocents or reenacting other Hollywood-fueled dystopian nightmares.