Boston Dynamics has released a new video demonstrating one of its newest robots—a birdlike creation that gracefully moves boxes around a warehouse floor like only an avian-Segway-hybrid contraption can.
The new robot is the latest iteration of “Handle,” a machine the company first showcased two years ago. The early version was Boston Dynamic’s first wheeled robot. Its legs allowed it to adjust to different terrains, but its wheels allowed it to easily zip around on a smooth surface.
The new Handle design has a clearer purpose—moving objects from points A to B. It has an “on-board vision system” that tracks the pallets it’s working with and finds particular boxes. The video shows the robot “reading” QR-type codes before it picks up boxes and places those boxes in near-perfect alignment with the other boxes it’s moved.
Instead of two arms, the new Handle has a single neck-like arm with a plate of what seems to be vacuum suction cups. This neck is capable of picking up objects up to 33 pounds, according to Boston Dynamics. To stabilize the large neck, the robot has a larger base than its predecessor. It swings in and out, balancing the bot, in a motion that resembles a wagging butt and tail. These features, along with the backward-bending knees, give the robot a physique resembling an ostrich.
While the fowl physique may not have been intentional, the vision of a robot-bird scurrying around a warehouse is a little dystopian. Will warehouse workers be less or more welcoming of robot assistants and replacements if the machines look humanoid or avian?