Willamette Valley High Tech
Agility Robotics is a global leader in developing robots designed to work in human spaces — and they’re doing it right here in Oregon.
The Nature of Work
Americans are currently going through a time of soul-searching when it comes to “work.” The crucible of the pandemic has made us more aware than ever of the tradeoffs we all make between our need to work and the quality of our lives. What sort of jobs do we want? Just as importantly, what sort of jobs are available to us? And, if there are entire categories of jobs that people simply will no longer accept, what will it mean for our economy? Our quality of life?
These are questions with no easy answers, but clearly, there are some categories of jobs that have become difficult to fill. And these are exactly the sort of jobs that might be better executed through automation.
Robots Alongside People
“I really see robots helping with dangerous, dull, repetitive manual labor jobs,” said Mikhail Jones, Vice President of Software for Agility Robotics. “That’s really where robotics excels, and we’ve seen the rise of automation really improve efficiency across industry.”
Agility’s Chief Technology Officer Jonathan Hurst agreed. “The very first kinds of things we’re going to be able to do with our robots, the Digit robot, are the kind of repetitive tasks that people just don’t want to do.”
The first commercially available human-form robot
A robot designed to work alongside people in human spaces
Agility’s robots have changed over time, eventually evolving into a very recognizable human shape. Except for its bird-like, backwards-bending knees, the human influence on their most recent iteration, named “Digit”, is obvious. In the words of Agility’s CEO Damion Shelton (pictured here), “We were the very first company to ever sell a machine with legs that we’re aware of, of any kind, and we are still to-date the only company that has a commercially available, person-shaped robot.”
A New Kind of Co-worker
Unlike single-function factory robots, Digit is designed to perform a variety of tasks, often right alongside people. In many ways, it’s the best co-worker imaginable. Digit is quiet, monitors all movement around it, and adjusts as necessary. It’s impervious to boredom or repetitive-motion injuries. Digit, in short, is a tool that provides an ideal complement to a traditional workforce. According to CTO Jonathan Hurst, “What we’re really getting to now, and really core to the mission of our company, is building robots that can operate like people, in human spaces, work with us, and really augment the workforce’s capabilities in our world.”
Where? Albany, Oregon
Agility could have easily chosen the Portland Metro area or even Silicon Valley as their headquarters. Instead, they’ve set up shop just outside Albany, Oregon — a small town in the mid-Willamette Valley. Here, less than an hour from Oregon’s two largest universities, they are able to leverage programs and job candidates from both campuses. Most importantly, they are helping to build a new, living-wage job sector in rural Oregon.Learn More about Agility Robotics
We can just achieve more, build more, and create more than at any point in history, and these robots are going to allow us to continue that trend, allow us to create more in the future than we can today.— Jonathan Hurst, Chief Technology Office, Agility Robotics
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