We’re used to robotics outfit Boston Dynamics doing interesting things in the field of robotic movement but its newest creation, Stretch, is a little less inclined to sprint around the yard. Instead, the box-shaped robot arm is designed to navigate warehouses and load or offload pallets. You know, the work we used to use people for.
It looks a little like the sort of robot arm you might find in a particularly advanced assembly line but Stretch is a little more technological even than that. The robot’s base is exactly the same size as a pallet, and it rolls along, meaning it can navigate around a warehouse environment. There’s a sensor tower (called a perception mast), giving the the apprentice Doc Ock arm the ability to see what it’s doing, and the arm itself includes seven degrees of freedom, meaning it can effectively reach into trucks to offload.
Its gripper is designed to handle various sorts of packages, while maintaining a high work rate, and the robot’s base is also packed with batteries. Stretch can travel a warehouse for a full workday, or sit in one spot on mains power and do some serious sorting. Boston Dynamics is very clear about what this robot is intended for, saying that Stretch lets buyers “[u]nload trucks and build pallets faster by sending the robot to the work, eliminating the need for new fixed infrastructure.”
Oh yes, Stretch is going on sale. There’s no price for the ‘bot at the present but those keen on having a rolling hunk of steel pack their pallets can register interest right now. The robot is expected to become widely available in 2022, but there’s still work to be done. The prototype, seen here, is functional, but the whole unit will be reengineered to make it more affordable and durable before it hits the market. .