Technology

Boston Dynamics unveils robot that picks up boxes, puts them down

It's intended to make warehouses safer and more efficient.

The company says that Stretch can move 800 boxes an hour. Boston Dynamics

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Boston Dynamics’ new robot is certainly not as flashy as its flagship machines, the jump-roping quadruped Spot and the dancing humanoid Atlas, but it still seems to get the job done.

That job: Picking up boxes and putting them down, perfect for warehouses and distribution centers.

Stretch, which was introduced by one of Boston Dynamics’ staple YouTube videos Monday morning, can independently move 800 boxes an hour, according to the company.

The prototype can unload trucks and build pallets, and its wheeled base allows it to navigate to other locations. It uses a massive robotic arm with seven degrees of freedom and an array of vacuum pads to lift boxes up to 50 pounds in weight. The bot also has a “perception mast” that automatically seeks and detects boxes.

“Warehouses are struggling to meet rapidly increasing demand as the world relies more on just-in-time delivery of goods,” CEO Robert Playter said in a release.” “Mobile robots enable the flexible movement of materials and improve working conditions for employees.”

Boston Dynamics has been working on automating warehouse logistics for a while. Stretch is an evolution of Handle, a 2019 bipedal wheeled prototype with a prominent counterweight that could lift boxes up to 33 pounds. Stretch is intended as a commercial product.

Stretch was first publicly shown in an extended “60 Minutes” segment reported by Anderson Cooper, which aired Sunday. It featured rare interviews with Playter and founder Marc Raibert and an even rarer look inside the Waltham facility. The segment reported that Stretch is set to go on sale next year.

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“Once it’s ready to go in a truck and unload it, you hit ‘go’ and from there on, it’s autonomous,” engineer Kevin Blankespoor told Cooper. “It will keep finding boxes and moving them until it’s all the way through.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ns__YpRneBA

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