When you think of Boston Dynamics, you probably conjure images of the frighteningly mobile robot dog Spot or the terrifyingly human-shaped robot Atlas, but the company has started to shift its focus to more utilitarian machines. The latest addition to its family of robots is Stretch, which Boston Dynamics describes as a “box-moving robot designed to support the growing demand for flexible automation solutions in the logistics industry.”
According to the press release, Stretch is the company’s first robot designed expressly for use in warehouse facilities and distribution centers. The primary function of Stretch is to move boxes quickly, whether they need to be unloaded from a truck or stacked up in the back of the facility before being processed and sent out.
Stretch has a square, mobile base that allows it to navigate tight spaces with precision and adapt to new layouts on the fly. Boston Dynamics says that this will help factories save money on fixed automation infrastructure. Stretch also has a lightweight arm with a “smart-gripper” on the end to grab boxes, and with its advanced sensing technology, the robot can take on “a large variety of boxed and shrink-wrapped cases.” Without requiring much training, Stretch can easily identify boxes as well, enabling a high pick rate (items picked per hour of work).
Boston Dynamics tells The Verge that Stretch is capable of moving up to 800 cases per hour, and that would make it nearly as productive as the average human worker. It also has a high-capacity battery which allows it to run for eight hours on a single charge. Whether or not Stretch is able to flawlessly handle a constantly evolving workspace with relative ease remains to be seen, but that is the promise that Boston Dynamics is making.
You can see Stretch in action in a warehouse in the video from Boston Dynamics introducing the robot below:
“Warehouses are struggling to meet rapidly increasing demand as the world relies more on just-in-time delivery of goods,” said Robert Playter, CEO of Boston Dynamics, in a statement about Stretch on Monday, March 29th. “Mobile robots enable the flexible movement of materials and improve working conditions for employees. Stretch combines Boston Dynamics’ advancements in mobility, perception and manipulation to tackle the most challenging, injury-prone case-handling tasks, and we’re excited to see it put to work.”
Boston Dynamics says that it is currently seeking customers to give Stretch a test run with truck unloading tasks, and plans to commercially deploy the first units in 2022. If you want to know more about the robot, or if you’re thinking about testing one at your facility, head over to the new Boston Dynamics page for Stretch.