Watch the newest box-stacking robot from Boston Dynamics at work
6:14

Watch the newest box-stacking robot from Boston Dynamics at work

Science
Speaker 1: Meet stretch, the newest edition to the Boston dynamics family and the robot that could start raising the eyebrows on millions of warehouse workers around the world. It's always exciting to tell you about a new robot from Boston dynamics. That's of course, the company that brought us the spot robot inspired a black mirror episode and introduced the world to robot tar core. [00:00:30] The company's latest creation is neither a quadriped or a gifted athlete. Its world is boxes and warehouses. So today I wanna talk to you about store, what it can do, how it was built and why it could be that industrial robot that companies have been waiting for Boston dynamics introduced stretch to the world with a cameo appearance by the company's most recognizable robot, [00:01:00] Boston dynamics call stretch its first commercial robot, specifically designed for warehouse facilities and distribution centers. A typical Speaker 2: Day in the life of stretch, uh, is gonna be, you know, maybe spending the morning on the inbound side of a warehouse, unloading boxes from trucks. It could spend the afternoon in the aisles of the warehouse building up pallets, that'll go out to, to, you know, retailers or e-commerce centers. Uh, and it could spend the evenings loading boxes back into trucks. Speaker 1: That's Kevin Blanko [00:01:30] for he's lead engineer on the stretch project at Boston dynamics. I had a chance to talk with him about how his box moving pallet stacking robot works. So first let's talk components. There are three and components to talk about here. There's the arm, the base, and the perception mask. Let's start with the arm. It needs to be able to lift 50 pounds. That's the heaviest box or pallet that you're gonna find in warehouses around the country. It Speaker 2: Needs to be a high speed, high reach strong arm. Now [00:02:00] you can buy industrial robot arms like that, but they're heavy. So we knew that to actually, you know, package us into a mobile robot, we needed something a lot more lightweight. So we designed the, the arm ourselves. Speaker 1: Kevin says stretches arm is about a quarter of the weight of an equivalent industrial arm that allowed them to design a relatively small mobile base. It's basically the size of a pallet. Meaning stretch can really go anywhere that a pallet can. The base moves on four multi-directional wheels, all controlled independently. Speaker 2: If you think about the most common [00:02:30] wheeled vehicle out there, which is probably your car, uh, it can move, you know, forward and backwards. It can turn a little bit, but, uh, it's a little bit limited compared to what stretch can do stretch because it control all the wheels independently can move forward and backwards. It can move side to side. It can rotate in place Speaker 1: Connected to the other end of the arm is that gripper. This is actually a bunch of suction cups connected to a vacuum. Now that's not necessarily new tech these days, but Kevin says they are working on a new smart gripper. That's packed with sensors. No Speaker 2: One's any [00:03:00] done, something like this before ripping a flat box. That's perfect. When the grippers exact right size, that's not too hard, right? Um, but when you get into like a big range of boxes from very small to very big or boxes that have holes in the top, even by design sometimes or boxes that maybe, maybe they're not boxes, maybe they're trays of drinks that have shrink wrap around tops really irregular that's, that's kind of the new frontier for suction Speaker 1: Grasping. Finally, you've got the perception mask. It's that pole sticking up next to the arm. That's packed with things like depth sensors and [00:03:30] 2d cameras. This is how stretch identify boxes of different sizes and shapes. Speaker 2: We also use those cameras for all the other things that really, um, you know, allow you to be autonomous. So they detect obstacles. We're able to localize or, you know, stretch can determine where it is in a warehouse and it can, can do all of the perception tasks it needs to. So that stretch can autonomously navigate through a warehouse. Speaker 1: If this sounds familiar, it may be because stretches vision system is largely based on those other robots from Boston dynamic spot [00:04:00] in that list. And that's not all these robots have in common. Speaker 2: It's one of the reasons we were able to build stretch pretty quickly is because we, we, you know, we borrowed from a lot of existing robots, but if you look at the, the at stretches wrists, it's the same electric motor, the same gear box, the same sensors, and even the same, you know, software for controlling it as spots hit. Um, and so we're able to take building blocks from, from all of our other robots, uh, and quickly build up prototypes, like stretch. In Speaker 1: Fact, stretch is really a direct descendant in a lot of [00:04:30] ways from the Atlas robot started back in 2016, when Boston dynamics released this video of Atlas lifting objects, they started getting interest from companies wanting to put Atlas to work in their warehouses, Speaker 2: As we thought, well, Atlas is probably a little complex for, for warehouse work. Uh, but we can, we could design something. That's a lot more simple, fewer joints, for example, um, that could work in a warehouse and still has ad you know, Atlas's attributes, which is that, you know, Atlas has a nice small footprint. It can fit in tight spaces, but it can still pick up heavy things. Speaker 1: Now that led the team to develop the handle [00:05:00] robot. First in introduced to the world a year later in 2017, after testing handle out with a few customers, they realized they needed something a little more Speaker 2: Maneuverable. If you've ever, you know, been in the back of a truck or a shipping container, it's pretty tight for a sizable robot, especially. Uh, and that was an eye opener for us, you know, handle could unload all the boxes in the truck, but it took a while because it had to maneuver around so much to avoid collisions. The whole time we had been thinking, okay, there's this other robot that looks like stretch that we had kind of had on the drawing board for years. [00:05:30] And that's when it became clear that that robot would be a lot faster and stretch. In fact can move boxes about five times faster than handle when it's unloading a truck. Speaker 1: So what's next for stretch? Well, to be clear, what we're looking at here is a prototype. Kevin says they're already working on a production model. That's been totally redesigned for cost reduction and higher performance. He expects to build the first units of that this summer, put them on sale next year. No word yet on a price tag. So is stretch the most impressive robot [00:06:00] yet from Boston dynamics or are you more of a spot enthusiast? Is Atlas your favorite? Let me know in the comments as always, thank you so much for watching. Don't forget to like and subscribe. I'm Andy Altman. I'll see you in the future.

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