Boston Dynamics, the company known for its cutting-edge robotics, is at it again – this time designing the first industry-specific robotic application of its kind.
Reuters reports that the company’s new robot, known as “Stretch,” is specially built to pick and stack boxes in a warehouse.
Stretch’s mobile base makes it perfect for new warehouse models in which planners use the concept of picking modules to localize how inventory is managed within a warehouse environment. The robot also has the sophisticated computer vision that has made robots so effective in doing different kinds of high-level tasks previously done exclusively by humans – for instance, encroachments in robotics into the field of fruit and vegetable harvesting.
Reuters reporter Matthew Stock also reports the Hyundai Motor Group has purchased a large stake in the company, which some analysts value at around $1.1 billion.
If past examples are any indication, Stretches are not going to be cheap. The Boston Dynamics Spot robot, for example, sells for around $75,000 according to some industry estimates.
In past years, the Spot and Atlas robots have led many YouTube viewers and others to rethink what’s possible with robotics, and wonder about how Aasimov’s “Three Rules of Robotics” and advanced robotic ethics will work in the brave new world of the future.
In a recent interview, Boston Dynamics founder and chair Marc Raibert, expounding on one such aspect of the advanced design, explains why the company went with legs for its iconic robots instead of wheels:
Anderson Cooper: Why focus on, on legs? I would think wheels would be easier.
Marc Raibert: Yeah, wheels and tracks are great if you have a prepared surface like a road or even a dirt road. But people and animals can go anywhere on earth– using their legs. And, so, that, you know, that was the inspiration.
In so many ways, new robots are based on that ambition – to make physically created machines pass various Turing tests in imitating natural motion and capabilities. Keep an eye out if you have any related tech assets.