It’s all fun and games until somebody loses their civilization.
The folks at Boston Dynamics have taken some time out from developing their terrifying robotic dogs and freerunning humanoid contraptions to work on a seemingly more innocuous bit of robot technology. This one has the harmless enough sounding name of “Handle” and it’s designed to do manual labor in warehouses, stacking boxes and moving pallets around. While it’s not in full production yet, it supposedly does the same things that Amazon’s warehouse robots do, being able to see and read labels and quickly shuffle packages around to where they need to be. But Handle is already being described as leaving the Amazon automatons in the dust. (Business Insider)
US engineering and robotics firm Boston Dynamics unveiled its latest creation on Thursday: A smooth-moving robot designed for use in warehouses and factories.
The robot, called Handle, specialises in handling and placing pallet-based boxes with a combination of speed and precision. It uses an onboard vision system to track specific pallets, as well as specific boxes, of up to 15 kilograms in weight.
Once it has selected a box, it deploys a series of suction pads to grasp and manipulate it before placing it neatly in the desired location using a force control system. Boston Dynamics’ video showcases its ability to detect and place boxes onto moving conveyor belts.
Let’s check out the video of Handle in action. Note that this model doesn’t bother with any sort of legs or even human looking arms. It runs on two wheels, allowing it to corner sharply and has a big counterweight sticking out behind it. Despite looking like it’s going to fall over at any moment, it uses that weight to balance itself as it picks up heavy loads.
This one isn’t talking or break dancing or roaming through the woods. The aforementioned lack of legs or other human-like limbs makes it appear all the more innocuous. Heck, it’s just loading freight in a warehouse. Nothing to be concerned with here, right?
Ah, but I’m willing to bet that’s the beauty of the underlying plan. These machines can still “see” everything around them, read human languages and navigate complicated territory at high speed. They can lift a serious amount of weight. They can also act autonomously to figure out how to get the job done. How much more Artificial Intelligence would it require for them to stop loading pallets with boxes and start hiding bodies?
While everyone’s attention is on the killer robot dogs, this thing will be gliding up behind you at thirty miles per hour. And they’ve got huge powerful arms with suckers on the end.
Sleep tight, America. Welcome to the 21st century.