Boston Dynamics’ latest robotic creation dubbed “Handle” was briefly mentioned and showcased earlier this month by the company’s founder Marc Raibert during a live presentation. Yesterday, Boston Dynamics pushed Handle more into the spotlight with a fresh introductory YouTube video showcasing the robot and its abilities in more detail. Impressively enough, the new robot has the ability to lift up to 100lbs (45Kg) and can even jump up to 4 feet (1.21 meters) in the air, all the while presenting a new set of locomotor skills based on wheel design.
Unlike Boston Dynamics’ previous robots which were either bipedal or quadrupedal, Handle actually holds its entire weight on two wheels. Despite this, the robot shows great performance in a variety of scenarios, and can easily roll on rough terrain, as well as switch from one type of terrain to another without losing balance. In fact, balance is the keywords surrounding Boston Dynamics’ Handle because, as described by Marc Raibert, it “has a lot of knowledge of how to throw its weight around”. This allows Handle to maintain great equilibrium all the while performing difficult tasks including going down stairs. Handle is also equipped with a couple of robotic arms able to lift 100lbs (or around 45Kg), and even more impressive is the fact that it’s not only capable of lifting all that weight from the ground, but also move it about without losing balance. Additionally, while Handle stands 6.5 feet tall (1.98 meters) it can top speeds of 9 mph (14 kph) and can even jump 4 feet (1.21 meters) in the air. It’s also worth noting that unlike the company’s previous robots, Handle appears to be significantly quieter thanks to its wheel-based design.
Despite its impressive abilities, Handle is technically less complex than its biped or quadruped siblings, in the sense that it has fewer actuated joints (about 10, according to the company). The machine is powered by electricity operating both electric and hydraulic actuators, and has a range of roughly 15 miles on a single charge. Boston Dynamic operates under Alphabet’s umbrella since the company was acquired by Google in 2013, however, more recent reports dating back to March 2016 suggest that Alphabet might be looking to sell Boston Dynamics due to the fact that the company doesn’t have a marketable product. Whether or not Handle will attract the attention of new investors remains to be seen.