Boston Dynamics, the company best-known for its creepy Spot robot dog, has started to put its robots in actual, real-life situations, starting with DHL warehouses.
The logistics giant has signed up for a $15 million deal to use Boston Dynamics' Stretch robot, which will be delivered to an unspecified number of warehouses over the next three years in North America.
The task? Unloading trucks, a pretty fundamental part of the logistics process.
“Stretch is Boston Dynamics’ newest robot, designed specifically to remedy challenges within the warehouse space,” said Boston Dynamics CEO Robert Playter. “We are thrilled to be working with DHL Supply Chain to deliver a fleet of robots that will further automate warehousing and improve safety for its associates. We believe Stretch can make a measurable impact on DHL’s business operations, and we’re excited to see the robot in action at scale.”
“We’re excited to partner with Boston Dynamics to deploy its best-in-class robotics in our warehouses," added Sally Miller, DHL CIO for Supply Chain. "The Stretch robot addresses complex industry challenges through flexible automation, which we’ll be able to replicate and scale regionally and globally.”
The Stretch robot is essentially a robotic arm on a moveable base. The arm has various degrees of movement and a suction base for picking up boxes and other items up to 23kg. Internal batteries offered eight hours of usage.
While picking up boxes might seem relatively simple, the process requires a lot of "thinking" from the robot, including assessing the 3D environment to both select and move boxes to the right locations.
"Stretch is equipped with a compact, omni-directional mobile base, custom-designed lightweight arm as well as a smart gripper with advanced sensing and controls that can handle a large variety of box types and sizes," says the company. "It also includes Boston Dynamics’ computer vision technology, which enables it to identify boxes easily and without any pre-programming. Stretch is capable of working autonomously through complex situations like disordered stacking configurations and recovering fallen boxes."
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