Google-owned robotics design company Boston Dynamics has unveiled a 6.5-foot tall robot called Handle that can travel up to speeds at 9mph and jump up to four feet in the air.
Unlike many of company’s previous creations, Handle has two wheels on its back legs on which it moves around, as well as two extra arms for balance and for carrying items of up to 50kg.
Boston Dynamics demonstrated some of the robot’s capabilities in a short video, which shows it rolling down a flight of steps, traversing a snowy hill, riding up a ramp on one leg and jumping over obstacles.
The reason for the wheels, according to the video’s description, is the relative simplicity that they offer: “Handle uses many of the same dynamics, balance and mobile manipulation principles founded in the quadruped and biped robots we build, but with only about 10 actuated joints, it is significantly less complex.
“Wheels are efficient on flat surfaces while legs can go almost anywhere: by combining wheels and legs Handle can have the best of both worlds.”
Boston Dynamics founder Marc Raibert described Handle as a: “Nightmare-inducing robot if you’re anything like me. This is 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, which it uses to stabilise itself.”
“It can carry a reasonably heavy load on a small footprint and it’s basically an exercise in seeing if we can do something like the humanoid that has less degrees of freedom, but eventually could be less expensive but still have significant capability,” he added.
Google first acquired Boston Dynamics in 2013, but last year it was put up for sale by parent company Alphabet, supposedly because it wasn’t likely to product a marketable products within the next few years.
Alphabet recently made a similar move by shutting down its internet drone project Titan as it looks to cut back on some of its more ambitious projects in order to focus on those that have more chance of succeeding.
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