Watch: These robots handle warehouse jobs like real pros
From Apple to Tesla, most tech giants use robots to automate internal activities like product assembly/disassembly. The work helps, but most machines in use aren't capable of working in dynamic, rapidly-changing environments. To tackle this problem, Boston Dynamics is working on the idea of 'warehouse of the future', where 'smart' robots team up to handle different tasks. Let's see what it would look like.
Boston Dynamics' Handle for warehouse activities
To make smart/automated warehousing a real thing, Boston Dynamics, which is already known for its brilliant line of robots (including Spot robo-dog), has developed an AI-powered robot called 'Handle'. The machine boasts of a small dino-like profile and wheels around from one point to another to pick up and drop off boxes weighing up to 15kg, be it in a warehouse or shipping container.
It has already been tested in warehouse setting
Handle's ability to deal with packages was demonstrated last year when the machine was seen picking-up and dropping cartons in a video. It wheeled around seamlessly in a warehouse setting, used a deep vision learning algorithm to decide which box has to be picked using suction at the end of its arm, and then rolled to a stationary pellet to place it neatly.
Now, Handle is teaming up with another robotic co-worker
Now, taking that work a step ahead, Boston Dynamics has released another demo video to show the future of robot-powered warehousing. In this particular clip, you can see Handle working but not alone; the machine is handling boxes in conjunction with a second robot named Otto 1500. This one is more like a high-tech pallet on wheels developed by industrial robot-maker Otto Motors.
How the two robots worked together?
The new clip shows two bots wheeling around a warehouse space, with Handle picking up boxes, like before, and placing them on the automated Otto pallet. Once the containers are stacked, Otto 1500 rolls to a different part of the warehouse, presumably somewhere the boxes could be picked up from, while Handle goes back to pick more boxes for the next Otto.
This shows how machines could work together in future
The video clearly shows how Boston Dynamics' robots and other machines can work together in a warehouse environment to handle complex tasks like picking, collecting, and moving heavy boxes for rapid loading/unloading. "We've built a proof of concept demonstration of a heterogeneous fleet of robots building distribution center orders to provide a more flexible warehouse automation solution," says Boston Dynamics VP Kevin Blankespoor.
Goal to put Handle on full-time warehouse work
Ultimately, Boston Dynamics hopes to attract customers for Handle and put the machine on full-time work, just like Spot, another one of BD's robots that recently worked at an oil rig in Norway. Blankespoor also notes that the company is expanding "Handle's capabilities and optimizing its interactions with other robots like the Otto 1500 for [effective] warehouse applications."