Boston Dynamics, the company that has us equal parts inspired and in fear of a robot uprising, has just revealed its new robot 'Stretch'.
The new machine will help the company gain a strong foothold in the logistics sector, and will "support the growing demand for flexible automation solutions in the logistics industry," Boston Dynamics explained in a press statement.
The unveiling marks the company's official entrance into warehouse automation, the company said.
The last decade has seen a sharply increased demand for e-commerce. The trend has only been heightened by the ongoing pandemic — a factor that has greatly added to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos's enormous wealth.
In their bid to apply their robotics expertise to the e-commerce and logistics space, Boston Dynamics built a "multi-purpose mobile robot [that] is designed to tackle a number of tasks where rapid box moving is required, first starting with truck unloading and later expanding into order building," the company explained.
Boston Dynamics aims to meet demand for smart warehouse logistics
Stretch was designed to improve the flow of goods, improve employee safety in undertaking physically difficult tasks, and reduce the cost of fixed automation.
The robot features a small omni-directional mobile base that allows it to move around tight spaces and easily adapt to new warehouse layouts. An arm and a smart-gripper with advanced sensing and computer vision cameras allow it to navigate warehouse spaces and identify and handle a large variety of items.
"We’re looking at picking up boxes around 50 pounds (23 kilograms), and our maximum rate of picking up and moving boxes can reach up to 800 cases per hour. So, it’s a fast moving, highly versatile robot," Michael Perry, vice president of business development for Boston Dynamics told Reuters in an interview.
Perry also explained that the company design Stretch after their R&D team identified that "pretty much universally across warehousing, truck unloading is one of the most physically difficult and unpleasant jobs."
Boston Dynamics is of course known for its robots 'Spot' and 'Atlas' — several of the company's videos showcasing the two robots' athletic maneuverability have gone viral in recent years. In December of last year, Hyundai bought a $1.1 billion majority stake in Boston Dynamics.
Though Boston Dynamics has not released any pricing for Stretch, the company said the system can be installed "without requiring costly reconfiguration or investments in new fixed infrastructure."