The scion of Oregon State University, Agility Robotics is an Albany, OR, based company that is taking bipedal robotics to the next level. Founded by Andy Rubin, ex-head of Google Robotics and co-founder of Android, Agility Robotics’ leadership has plenty of connections in the tech world, but a leg-up on the competition doesn’t make their latest generation of bipedal robots any less impressive.
It’s a significant funding round because it may be the most substantial funding for a commercial-use, bipedal robot that mimics human movement, ever. Palo Alto-based Playground Global was the leading investor, following their modus operandi of investing in promising, forward-looking hardware firms and startups. The Sony Innovation Fund and Robotics Hub were also investors of note, with Robotics Hub having contributed funds before this round. In total, Agility Robotics has now garnered approximately $8.79 million to fund their efforts.
What distinguishes the Agility Robotics biped, Casie, from inventions created by the likes of Boston Dynamics and Schaft is its clear aim towards filling a commercial role. Specifically, Cassie will be a delivery-bot, and it’s thought that its two-legged design will allow it a broader, more realistic range of motion compared to other autonomous bots being developed for use in warehouses, among other environments.
Agility Robotics has developed a novel architecture that leverages passive dynamics and mechanically embodies a “spring-mass model” to achieve human-like gait dynamics, said Bruce Leak, co-founder of Playground Global. The combination of implementing passive dynamics in hardware and mechanical springs to store and release energy when necessary via actuation lets them achieve superior energy efficiency compared to state-of-the-art bipedal systems.
However, according to the Agility team, Cassie will not be limited to its proposed used as a round-the-clock delivery device. It has also been envisioned as an in-home assistant, real-time environmental mapping device, and in other roles yet to be realized. While many humanoid robots are designed primarily so that they look like humans, this biped is being designed because the human mode of walking just works.