Boston Dynamics, the global leader in creepy robots, has unveiled its first automated machine for the logistics industry. Meet Stretch, an AI-powered robot that can move up to 800 50-pound boxes per hour. With its advanced vision system and omni-directional mobile base, Stretch could improve worker safety and, of course, fill in for box-moving warehouse workers.
Most box-moving robots are “fixed,” meaning that they stay in one place and can’t wheel around to jump from task to task. Their stationary design is better suited for a factory-like environment than the dynamic, ever-changing floor of a warehouse. Boston Dynamics hopes to bridge that gap with its Stretch robot, which looks like a typical factory-style robot with wheels and other adaptations for a warehouse environment.
Like the Boston Dynamics Spot and Atlas robots, Stretch features a complex imaging system to navigate its environment and adapt to a variety of jobs. It can automatically detect boxes and other containers with minimal training, and move in any direction using its omni-directional mobile base, which is about the size of a wooden pallet. Of course, Stretch can’t dance around like the Atlas or Spot robots, but it has a large arm with super strong suction cups to pick up 50-pound boxes.
Upgrading warehouses to accommodate stationary machines is an expensive, difficult task. If Boston Dynamics’ claims are true, then Stretch can fit in any warehouse environment with little training, replacing workers or filling in for humans during dangerous work, like offloading trucks. Of course, Boston Dynamics says that Stretch requires some human supervision, so a “robots are stealing our jobs” scenario is unlikey (for now). Also, we won’t know if the robot is reliable or not until it’s put to use by real logistics companies.
Boston Dynamics plans to sell Stretch by 2022, and is currently looking for companies who want to test the robot before its official launch. Companies who want to test Stretch can apply for the Early Adopter Program on the Boston Dynamics website.