In a scene that looks like it’s from a sci-fi movie, a YouTube video posted today by robotics company Boston Dynamics shows a huge, ostrich-like robot “Handle” whirling round while deftly moving boxes in a warehouse. The video has garnered over 138,000 views in less than four hours.
Boston Dynamics introduced Handle two years ago, but the bot’s debut was overshadowed by viral videos of the company’s humanoid Atlas doing parkour and dancing robodogs Spot and SpotMini. Now Handle is a star in its own right.
As the title of the video suggests, “Handle Robot Reimagined” includes significant updates. In its 2017 demo video Handle picked up a 100 pound (45 kg) crate. A bit shaky, but it managed the task. Instead of using twin arms to pick up objects, the reimagined Handle wields a single, extensible arm tipped with suction cups that can grab objects up to 30 pounds (14 kg). The boxes in the video weigh about 12 lbs (5 kg). Handle can deal with pallets up to 68 inches (1.7 m) in height.
With its improvements Handle appears to be both more stable and dexterous. An onboard vision system enables quick identification and precision placement and piling of boxes.
The Handle update seems another step toward commercialization for Boston Dynamics. The SoftBank-owned company plans to put SpotMini on the market later this year. Company CEO Marc Raibert says SpotMini’s design was “motivated by thinking about what could go in an office — in a space more accessible for business applications — and then, the home eventually.”
Boston Dynamics is positioning Handle as a “mobile manipulation robot designed for logistics.” The company plans to showcase the bot and release more details about it at the supply chain, manufacturing and distribution trade show ProMat 2019, which runs April 8 to 11 in Chicago.
Journalist: Fangyu Cai | Editor: Michael Sarazen