Boston Dynamics has a new YouTube video showing its latest robot design. This is a reimagining of the "Shop" robot that the company originally showed in 2017. Then the robot could jump four feet into the air and do all sorts of tricks; now is the purpose of loading pallets.
Back in 201[ads1]7 Handle was the company's first public "wheelbase" robot, that is, the robot is a bipedal design that stands on two legs, but instead of feet in the bottom, the design chooses for a set of wheels. Boston Dynamics described the design decision on its website and said: "The wheels are fast and efficient on flat surfaces while the legs can go almost anywhere: Combining wheels and legs, Acting has the best of both worlds." The wheel leg allowed the original handle to have a coarse human form factor (albeit with back knees) and a top speed of 9 MPH, just by rolling the wheel's feet.
The new handle is no longer humanoid. While it still has wheel arches with backward bent knees, it is now more bird-like than human. The two arms have been replaced with a single arm mounted on the top of the bottom so that it looks like a long neck. The top handle of the original handle has been changed, and now much of the robot's mass lives in a large, swinging swinging back (dust tail?) That acts as a counterweight as the robot lifts things and moves around.
At the top of the neck is like some visual sensors and a grid of vacuum suction cups that allow the robot to pick up boxes weighing up to 33 pounds and arranging them on pallets. In the video above, two handlebats move around completely untethered, picking up boxes from a shelf, stacking them neatly on a pallet and unloading them on a conveyor belt. The YouTube description suggests that this has been done completely autonomously, and if you tag everything with matrix barcodes (QR-encoded paper labels in the video), the robots can even mix SKU and fulfill orders.
Of course, Handle has the Boston Dynamics creep factor brand, looks vaguely vibrant and animal-like. With the back knees, long neck and tail-like rear end, Handle looks a bit like a mechanical ostrich or a high-tech drinking bird toy.
There is surprisingly little flair in this video – no one kicks the bird's bottom, nor does it do any trick. It's just a regular robo-bird day in the freight center. As usual for Boston Dynamics, these robots work better and more advanced than anything else out there, but is there ever a plan to make money doing this? Handles are certainly the most useful job-oriented robot the company has ever produced.
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