Boston Dynamics earlier this month referred to one of its creations as a "nightmare-inducing" robot. The company was talking about a wheeled robot named Handle, and what makes it the thing of nightmares is its level of dexterity. Standing upright on two wheels, it is able to zoom forward and backward at a pretty good clip—up to 9 miles per hour. That's fast enough to give chase, if it ever had the inclination, but we did we mention it can jump, too?
The ability to leap into the air and over objects (or on top of them) is what gives this robot a new level of Skynet hysteria. Don't get us wrong, we don't really think machines are about to assert their dominance over mankind, but if it truly is only a matter of time before such a scenario plays out, we'll look back at these moments and wonder what in the hell were we thinking. In this case, Handle is able to leap 4 feet vertically.
There's a one and half minute video showcasing Handle. In it you get to see how nimble it is, both on stable ground inside a concrete floor warehouse, and outside as it rolls down a snowy embankment.
Handle is electric powered. It has both electric and hydraulic actuators, and can travel about 15 miles before running out of battery power. That metric is probably a best case scenario in which it strictly wheels itself across flat and stable terrain, as it can do more than just move around. In one part of the video, Handle is shown rolling backwards towards a milk crate containing 100 pounds of objects. It then bends at the knees, grabs the crate, and lifts it up with relative ease as it moves forward.
"Handle uses many of the same dynamics, balance and mobile manipulation principles found in the quadruped and biped robots we build, but with only about 10 actuated joints, it is significantly less complex. Wheels are efficient on flat surfaces while legs can go almost anywhere: by combining wheels and legs Handle can have the best of both worlds," Boston Dynamics says.
While we joke about Skynet scenarios, there is a genuine fear by some that robots are becoming too advanced. That perception is one of the reasons why Google's parent company, Alphabet, is looking to sell Boston Dynamics.