Agility Robotics, a maker of legged, walking robots, announced Thursday the close of a $20 million investment to meet demand from logistics providers and e-commerce retailers.
DCVC and Playground Global co-led the round and were joined by TDK Ventures, MFV Partners, Industrial Technology Investment Corp., Sony Innovation Fund and Safar Partners.
Agility, based in Albany, Oregon, has raised a total of $29 million since its founding in 2015.
Warehouse robotics is a booming industry, as manufacturers and logistics companies seek automated solutions to the seemingly never-ending uptick in e-commerce deliveries.
Those robotic solutions come in all shapes and sizes, from wearable robots to R2-D2-like autonomous mobile robots.
But Agility is one of the first to debut “humanoid-style” robots: that is, robots capable of moving as humans do.
In 2017 the startup captured the popular imagination with Cassie, a bipedal robot with human-like legs. It was the first commercially available automaton designed specifically for “legged locomotion.”
Building on Cassie, Agility last year launched Digit, a robot well-suited to package delivery in that it not only walks but also can pick up and put down objects such as lifting a box from the floor to a shelf.
The new model is “comfortable” in unstructured indoor and outdoor terrain, the company said.
In other words, where humans go, so too does Digit.
Ford Motor Co., for one, was smitten. The automotive giant announced that it would be Digit’s first customer and plans to use the robot with self-driving cars for delivery.
Digit is commercially available and has been shipping to customers since July, the company said.
“As investors across the robotics and logistics ecosystems, we know all too well the challenges facing retailers and logistics companies in hiring hundreds of thousands of people during surges in demand like the current pandemic and, more commonly, holiday seasons,” said Bruce Leak, partner at Playground Global and Agility Robotics board member, in a press release.
With Digit, Leak added, Agility Robotics is well-positioned to provide a practical and scalable solution for businesses, while also improving human safety.
The new robot is “versatile” and can do a range of different jobs that have been designed around a “human form factor,” said co-founder and CEO Damion Shelton.
“It’s never been clearer that our society’s demand for manual labor exceeds our ability to generate it safely and it is far past time we have a solution which can work alongside humans to raise the bar on quality of life and free up human time,” Shelton said.
Agility will use the round to accelerate development and deployment of Digit, the company said.