Boston Dynamics Stretch Is The Latest Human-Displacing Robot Aimed At Warehouse Duty
Be happy that you are alive now, and not 100 or 200 years into the future. Why is that? Eventually there are not going to be any jobs left for flesh and blood humans, not when robots rule the world. Perhaps nudging us in that direction, Boston Dynamics has announced Stretch, its second commercial robot that is right at home in a warehouse setting.
What can Stretch do, exactly? Quite a few things that normally fall on the shoulders of a human worker, like lifting boxes and packages. It is essentially a high-tech warehouse employee that does not need to take a lunch break, and can work "beyond a full shift" through optimized software.
"Stretch is a versatile mobile robot for case handling, designed for easy deployment in existing warehouses. Unload trucks and build pallets faster by sending the robot to the work, eliminating the need for new fixed infrastructure," Boston Dynamics explains.
The launch comes a year after Boston Dynamics debuted Spot, a nimble four-legged robot that is able to climb stairs, traverse rough terrain, and even open doors. Whereas Spot can be utilized in a warehouse setting or various other places, like healthcare settings and beyond, Stretch is a bit more focused—in simple terms, it's a "box-moving robot."
Stretch is also the company's first commercial robot designed specifically for warehouse facilities and distribution centers. There are more than 150,000 such places.
"The robot’s small, omni-directional mobile base allows Stretch to navigate loading docks, maneuver in tight spaces and adapt to changing facility layouts, eliminating the need for costly fixed automation infrastructure. It is equipped with a custom-designed lightweight arm and a smart-gripper with advanced sensing and controls that can handle a large variety of boxed and shrink-wrapped cases," Boston Dynamics explains.
It is a bit of a technical marvel. Advanced perception capabilities allow it to analyze the environment and detect boxes, that it can then grab with its smart gripper and move where it needs to go. Stretch's robotic arm affords 7 degrees of freedom and has a long reach.
High capacity batteries keep Stretch running for a full shift, with the option of plugging into shore power for continuous operation. It also features a mobile base to move in any direction and navigate obstacles and ramps. The robot's overall footprint allows it to squeeze into any place a pallet can fit into.
At present, Boston Dynamics is looking for customers to help with testing Stretch's ability to unload trucks ahead of the robot's planned commercial deployment next year.