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Boston Dynamics, famous for their door opening robotic dogs and jogging bipedal robots, introduced Handle, their new warehouse work robot, today in a video posted to YouTube.
Handle the Warehouse Work Robot
According to Boston Dynamics, "Handle is a mobile manipulation robot designed for logistics. Handle autonomously performs mixed SKU pallet building and depalletizing after initialization and localizing against the pallets. The on-board vision system on Handle tracks the marked pallets for navigation and finds individual boxes for grasping and placing."
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In the video, you can see that unlike its earlier robots, Handle is wheeled, rather than legged. A wheeled robot in a warehouse environment is obviously the best choice since it makes the work of the robot simpler since the machine also has to balance a heavy load suspended overhead at the end of its arm.
To help it do this, Boston Dynamics uses a counterweight at the end of the body opposite the arm, the same technique that allows construction cranes to withstand the torque generated by especially heavy loads. Boston Dynamics says that "when Handle places a boxes onto a pallet, it uses force control to nestle each box up against its neighbors. The boxes used in the video weigh about 5 Kg (11 lbs), but the robot is designed to handle boxes up to (15 Kg) (33 lb). This version of Handle works with pallets that are 1.2 m deep and 1.7 m tall (48 inches deep and 68 inches tall)."
The pair of robots working together in the video to lift, move, and stack boxes in a warehouse gives us a vision of what we can expect in the future as automation spreads to more areas of employment.