Discover the new face of Digit from Agility Robotics
There is a wide range of thoughts on robot faces. This is a surprisingly difficult aspect to master for very good reasons. For one thing, we’re wired to recognize and intuit faces, so small changes make big differences.
On the other hand, they are effectively a window to understanding mood, feelings, intentions, etc. of a person or an animal. Make them too simple and you lose a lot of important nuance. If they’re too complex and realistic, however, you’ve just punched a one-way ticket to the Weird Valley.
Once you start to understand this stuff, it’s clear that many companies have spent a lot of money consulting behavioral scientists and employing animators from places like Pixar and Dreamworks. There are several studies on the science behind robot faces and which varieties are best suited for each job. They are super interesting. I recommend a couple reading.
It’s also clear why Agility has a face for version 2.0 of its digital robot. I watch a lot of robots. It’s a fun bit of job description. I’ve seen all sorts of different varieties and it takes a lot to freak me out (although that’s entirely possible), but I’m sympathetic to that visceral reaction to seeing a headless robot walking around. I suspect the original Digit and its predecessor Cassie have both garnered their fair share of feedback over the years.
Digit 2.0 arrives at ProMat this week with a minimalist head. It’s a glossy white oblong structure with sensors on the sides, a pair of large flashing LED eyes on the front, and a third light on the back. In the absence of a soul, the eyes are the gateway to the face, and in the case of a large, heavy robot with potentially unlimited mobility, they provide insight (along with body language) into direction and of the intention of the system.
“Digit also has a new head with LED-animated eyes, which enable HRI enhancements such as using simple expressions to convey information and intentions,” a company representative told TechCrunch. “For example, the new Digit uses simple body language and eye movements to indicate which direction it is about to turn.”
The other big functional aesthetic change here is the addition of “final efforts” – simple hands, indeed. These are designed to allow better interaction with warehouse tools like bins. An improvement, certainly, over Digit’s original nodes. Hands are tough, especially when they’re scalable, dexterous, and tough enough to withstand day to day.
The company also uses ProMat to open access to the Agility Partner Program (APP), which is designed to give customers – current and future – an impact on robot development in the future. It will also put them on the front line when the product goes on sale. These first beta bots are expected to arrive early next year, with more general availability below. Agility has yet to reveal pricing.
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