One year ago, when we showed readers the SkyNet-like robots produced by Boston Dynamics, a company acquired by Google in 2013 (which then tried to flip it to Toyota last year but reportedly failed) we called the robotic creations "terrifying." Little did we know that compared to Boston Dynamics' next spawn, that particular batch was downright Johnny 5-friendly by comparison. Because after being briefly shown off at an event early this month, the robotic designed has officially revealed its latest creation, “Handle,” which the company’s founder previously described as “nightmare-inducing."
Four weeks ago, Boston Dynamics - which is best known for its bipedal and quadrupedal robots - revealed it had been experimenting with some radical new tech: the wheel. The company named its new wheeled, upright robot is named Handle (“because it’s supposed to handle objects”) and looks like a cross between a Segway and the two-legged Atlas bot according to the Verge. Handle, which had not been officially unviled yet, was shown off by company founder Marc Raibert in a presentation to investors. Footage of the presentation was uploaded to YouTube by venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson.
Creating a more efficient robot that can, pardon the pun, handle basic tasks like moving objects around a warehouse would certainly be of benefit for Boston Dynamics. Although the company has consistently wowed the public with its robots, it’s struggled to produce a commercial product that’s ready for the real world. That may soon change.
Raibert described Handle as an “experiment in combining wheels with legs, with a very dynamic system that is balancing itself all the time and has a lot of knowledge of how to throw its weight around.” He added that using wheels is more efficient than legs, although there’s obviously a trade-off in terms of maneuvering over uneven ground.
“This is the debut presentation of what I think will be a nightmare-inducing robot,” said Raibert.
He wasn't kidding: as the video below reveals, Handle is officially about 6 foot 5, weights about 100lbs, and can roll around at around 9 mph, while preserving perfect balance and even engaging in complex aerial acrobatics: Handle can keep its balance over rough terrain, and can even jump 4 feet in the air, as well as going down stairs without an issue.
While we are confident Amazon will promptly order a few thousands of these to bring even more streamline automation and efficiency to its behemoth warehouses while putting countless part-time workers out of work, we don't know if to dread or yearn for the moment when RoboHandle emerges in a quiet patrol of your neighborhood street, armed and ready to use lethal force, and gradually replacing the local police force around the country.