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This new Stretch robot is designed to replace humans — here’s how

Boston Dynamics Stretch robot
(Image credit: Boston Dynamics)

Say hello to Stretch, the latest robot from Boston Dynamics, designed to help with the heavy lifting in warehouses. 

While the U.S. robotics company might be better known for making the Spot dog-like robot, Stretch seems to have more of a practical purpose. It can lift warehouse boxes as heavy as 23Kg, helping human workers get more packages ready as demand for rapid delivery keeps surging.

Stretch sits on top of a square base, which hides its wheels away, letting it move in any direction, and tackle the ramps and bumps that are commonplace in warehouse settings. It's not a stretch to say that the machine would look somewhat at home in the U.K. Robot Wars arena, grappling with the likes of Sir Killalot and Cassius Chrome. 

But it also has a lot more to offer than the veneer of an amateur robot warrior: a “perception mast” fitted with cameras and sensors helps detect warehouses’ boxes before its knuckle boom crane arm extends to grip heavy loads and shrink-wrapped cases.

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Boston Dynamics’ design has one thing in mind: keeping things as ergonomic as possible, enabling Stretch swivel round even the most cramped warehouse spaces to grab boxes.

This focus on mobility makes Stretch a flexible robot for lots of workspaces, where other more cumbersome automation equipment would need to be bolted down, and tasks carried out around the robots. However, Stretch slots into any existing warehouse environment, able to perform its heavy-lifting duties without disrupting other processes. You could almost see it as a robot helper to human workers. 

Among other things, Stretch could help ease the pandemic-induced increase in boxes mercilessly passing through warehouses because of increased home deliveries. Furthermore, it could also reduce workplace injuries from heavy lifting by "tackling the most challenging, injury-prone case-handling tasks," according to Robert Player, Boston Dynamics' CEO.

There's still no confirmed price for the machine. But we can't help but think there's definitely a place for a robot of this stature, able to flex around existing workflows and save you a whole heap of back pain in the process.

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