Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Boston Dynamics unveils new warehouse robot for more efficient operations

Best known for its humanoid and canine robots, the robot creator Boston Dynamics has released its first purpose-built robot designed for commercial use. Named Stretch, the versatile mobile robot aims to automate box moving tasks in warehouses and distribution centers.

While some robotic tools for package handling already exist, Boston Dynamics takes Stretch to another level. The robot can easily be deployed in existing warehouses, eliminating the need for a new fixed infrastructure. Mobility will allow the robot to unload packages from trucks or take them from one warehouse to another. At the same time, Stretch is able to move around the premises itself.

Boston Dynamics unveils new warehouse robot for more efficient operations.
Stretch’s 7 degrees-of-freedom arm grants long reach and large workspace. Credit: Boston Dynamics

The warehouse robot consists of a square base with wheels that allows almost absolute mobility, with maneuverability in any direction. It can even navigate obstacles and ramps and takes up the same space as a pallet-type mobile platform.

The key element in the new Boston Dynamics robot is its “perception mast.” It is equipped with a variety of sensors and cameras, a computer vision system, and the ability to recognize objects. And then, the multi-jointed robotic arm comes into play that can easily reach through a truck or past a pallet thanks to its seven degrees of freedom.

Boston Dynamics unveils new warehouse robot for more efficient operations.
It can pick up virtually any box up to 23 kg in weight. Credit: Boston Dynamics

A gripper at the end of said arm creates a vacuum to pick up virtually any box weighing up to 23 kg. At the moment, Stretch can only handle boxes with flat surfaces, which limits its usefulness in certain warehouses, but it can move up to 800 boxes per hour, a rate of return comparable to that of a human employee. Of course, it all depends on the specific task. High-capacity batteries power Stretch through a full shift, with the option to plug into shore power for continuous operation.

Stretch makes warehouse operations more efficient and safer for workers. Its technology builds upon the company’s decades of advancements in robotics to create a flexible, easily integrated solution that can be deployed in any warehouse.

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.

The warehouse robot can be operated by anyone with just a few hours of training. The American company, which Hyundai acquired in 2020, is currently seeking customers to pilot test deployment of Stretch with truck unloading tasks ahead of its commercial deployment in 2022. No price for Stretch has yet been announced.