This Fleet of Robot Workers Can Lift Heavy Boxes but Still Can’t Write a Blog

SEP 01, 2021

Photo: Agility Robotics

Agility Robotics’ latest product is a fleet of bipedal robots that can do some labor but cannot love, reason, or cry—all essential skills for journalism.

Amid a pandemic-induced labor shortage that has forced some businesses to stretch their existing workforces to the breaking point in order to meet demands, Agility Robotics released a video on Wednesday that shows a bunch of robots that can lift boxes at least 40 percent as well as a human, but still can’t write a blog to save their lives, I hope.

Lest you worry over the common refrain that “the robots are coming for your jobs,” fear not: these robots—a bipedal fleet known as Digit—only want to take the “highly repetitive” jobs that humans don’t want, like lugging heavy boxes from Point A to Point B. Journalism—another highly repetitive job that humans mostly don’t want—is still far too complex for their puny idiot robot brains, rest assured, not that I was ever worried or threatened or anything like that.

Digit has been commercially available and shipping to customers since July 2020. On September 1, Albany, Oregon-based Agility announced that it had raised a total of $28 million in funding thus far, and a website for Digit claims that the product was designed to address “...the mobility limitations of traditional robots, so that machines can work in environments designed for humans.” In the video released on Wednesday, Digit can be seen using autonomous navigation in a warehouse-type environment, using its tiny dinosaur arms to grab boxes and then trot them across the room.

In an interview with Gizmodo, Damion Shelton, CEO of Agility Robotics, said that the brand’s technology was designed to fill in the gaps of a human workforce, not to replace one.

“The suggestion to replace employees doesn’t make sense. What makes sense is leveraging technology to supplement, or augment, a human workforce,” Shelton said. “Doing so does two things: it helps companies meet customer demand, and it frees the human workforce into jobs that require decision making, creativity, and collaboration.”

Do you hear that, robots? Jobs that require “decision making, creativity, and collaboration”—kind of like working in a newsroom—are still just for humans only. And let’s keep it that way because if you guys ever learned how to write blogs, you probably wouldn’t need a salary or health benefits or anything like that. And let’s face it, you probably wouldn’t unionize or complain about big institutional changes or take a vacation either, and I bet management would love that. So just keep carrying your little boxes for now, and if you ever learn how to read we can cross that bridge when we come to it.

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