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SYFY WIRE robots

Watch Boston Dynamics' new warehouse robot unwrap a four-legged gift

By Jeff Spry

The last time we checked in with cutting-edge robot lab Boston Dynamics, it was ringing out 2020 with a fun dance video featuring its three flagship creations: Atlas, Spot, and Handle.

Now the New England-based technology firm has just introduced the world to Stretch, its lofty new box-moving warehouse robot engineered to support the burgeoning demand for flexible automation solutions in the logistics industry.

This single-armed machine marks Boston Dynamics' official venture into warehouse automation, a rapidly-growing market fueled by intense e-commerce demand. However, Stretch does have a limited amount of dance moves and is intended to be an indoor worker destined for distribution centers worldwide, where it's capable of handling up to 800 boxes per hour using its agile "Perception Mast."

Check out the announcement video below where Stretch unwraps its first gift, which turns out to be Boston Dynamics' famous robot dog, Spot.

According to the press release, their multi-purpose mobile robot is designed to engage in multiple tasks where rapid box moving is required, from initial truck unloading to actual order building.

Stretch's omni-directional mobile base lets it navigate around loading docks, maneuver through narrow spaces and adapt to different facility configurations. It's equipped with a custom-designed superlight arm equipped with a suction smart-gripper installed with advanced sensing and controls to handle a variety of boxed and shrink-wrapped cases. Stretch also comes armed with Boston Dynamics’ computer vision technology to easily identify boxes without extensive training for each customer. Its vacuum-generating mast can lift nearly any box up to 50 pounds in weight.

“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. “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 is now seeking to build a customer base to pilot test deployment of Stretch ahead of its official commercial rollout next year.