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Boston Dynamics’ Stretch robot can now pick multiple boxes simultaneously. This new ability, which the company calls Multipick, will help to improve the robot’s productivity to keep up with busy warehouses.
When approaching a trailer to unload, Stretch will decide how many boxes it might Multipick. It makes these decisions on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration the size, individual properties, and placement of the boxes. Stretch also considers the properties of groups of boxes, like how well-aligned they are. The robot will then determine if it would be best to pick one, two, or even three boxes at once.
To ensure that Stretch can securely acquire each individual box, Boston Dynamics has to ensure that the grip is exactly right on all of the boxes and that all the suction cups on Stretch’s gripper are engaged. Once the robot determines a grasp plan based on which boxes it wants to pick, that information is passed to the gripper control so it knows which suction cups it needs to engage.
When the gripper makes contact with the group of boxes, the gripper controller assesses whether it’s made sufficient suction with each box it’s trying to pick. This information is used again when placing the boxes so the robot knows which cups to turn off to release each box.
Boston Dynamics began developing Stretch in 2018, and the robot was unveiled in 2021. Stretch comes with an 8-hour battery life, but there will be a 16-hour battery option and the ability to plug Stretch in for continuous power. Stretch uses the Pick vision system, which Boston Dynamics acquired when it bought Kinema Systems in April 2019. Pick uses high-resolution 2D and 3D vision and machine learning algorithms for robotic depalletizing. One of the main keys to success will be Stretch’s ability to handle a variety of boxes.