Boston Dynamics — producers of everyone’s favorite robots that can run, backflip, and generally unnerve the human population — is back with its latest bot: a “reimagined” version of its Handle robot from 2017. And this time, it’s really, really good at stacking boxes.
The original Handle was designed largely as an experiment that applied Boston Dynamics’ robot know-how (typically used for bipedal or quadrupedal bots) to one with wheels. The new version looks far more polished, though, applying the original into an actually useful machine that can automatically load and unload pallets of products in a warehouse, as demonstrated in the video. It’s easy to see the applications of Handle in automating warehouse work (like say, Amazon’s fulfillment centers), with fleets of robots rolling around and grabbing boxes to build into a perfect, giant stack.
On a technical side, Boston Dynamics says that Handle can life up to 30-pound boxes (although the video used roughly 12-pound boxes), and can stack pallets up to 4 feet deep and up to 5.5 feet tall. Onboard vision systems help Handle find boxes to grab and track which pallets it’s supposed to be taking them to and from. Add that all together and it means that Handle could probably crush you at Giant Jenga.
Like many of Boston Dynamics’ projects, Handle is still just a prototype for now — the company hasn’t announced any plans for turning it into a commercial product just yet.