Boston Dynamics is known for robots, not just any kind of robots, but robots that have the movement characteristics of a human being. We are talking about two legs, two hands creatures with the movement control of a human. This is not an easy thing to attempt, and so far Boston Dynamics have shown considerable progress.
The Company just released a video of its luggage packing robot called HANDLE. Here the robot is seen parking cartons of goods in a warehouse from one point to another. The interesting thing here is the balancing of the robot; it is simply amazing, as the robot seems to be doing a gazillion of calculations in a second to be able to take decisions on the pivot controls for the right equilibrium of forces.
Handle is a mobile manipulation robot designed for logistics, and fitted with on-board vision systems. Here is what the company says about Handle:
“Handle is a robot that combines the rough-terrain capability of legs with the efficiency of wheels. It uses many of the same principles for dynamics, balance, and mobile manipulation found in the quadruped and biped robots we build, but with only 10 actuated joints, it is significantly less complex. Wheels are fast and efficient on flat surfaces while legs can go almost anywhere: by combining wheels and legs, Handle has the best of both worlds.
Handle can pick up heavy loads while occupying a small footprint, allowing it to maneuver in tight spaces. All of Handle’s joints are coordinated to deliver high-performance mobile manipulation”.
Handle weighs about 100kg and can carry a package of about 45kg. A normal warehouse robot like the ones in Amazon is part of a complex network of box-like robots with packages arranged in a very precise order, and with predefined shapes. But Handles just behaves like a human, as you don’t have to arrange anything or have a specific shape of the package. Handle handles it and keeps it orderly just like a human being would do.
The Robot even has buttocks, for weight balancing. Wondering what the human buttocks is used for? Boston Dynamics knows its purpose…it’s not for attraction.
Handle was first introduced in 2017 by Boston Dynamics, since then the company has made lots of improvements in capabilities. The video below shows the initial “Handle” release in 2017.