Boston Dynamics and OTTO Motors are demoing their vision of the future of logistics automation. In a video released today, which you can watch above, Boston Dynamics’ Handle robot can be seen picking boxes and building pallets on top of OTTO’s autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) in a test environment that resembles a distribution center.
Handle uses an on-board vision system to identify and locate boxes. The vision system, called “Pick,” was acquired by Boston Dynamics when it purchased startup Kinema Systems in April 2019. According to Boston Dynamics, Pick integrates high resolution 3D and 2D sensing to locate a wide variety of boxes and features a pick rate of up to 720 boxes per hour.
When Handle was introduced in 2017, it had two robotic arms. Now it only has one arm that has a reach of three meters, a suction gripper, and payload capacity of up to 15 kg.
Boston Dynamics said Handle completed proof of concept trials with customers in warehouses last year. It is now working with OTTO Motors to further automate the logistics space. It’s unclear in the video how much of the work is being done autonomously, or if the robots are being controlled by humans off camera. The Robot Report has reached out to both Boston Dynamics and OTTO Motors to learn more about the collaboration.
“We’ve built a proof of concept demonstration of a heterogeneous fleet of robots building distribution center orders to provide a more flexible warehouse automation solution,” said Boston Dynamics VP of Product Engineering Kevin Blankespoor. “To meet the rates that our customers expect, we’re continuing to expand Handle’s capabilities and optimizing its interactions with other robots like the OTTO 1500 for warehouse applications.”
In another sign of its commercialization efforts, Boston Dynamics Founder Marc Raibert stepped down as CEO in October 2019. Raibert spun off the company from the MIT in 1992. Raibert is now Chairman and Founder of the company. He reportedly will continue to help it develop research robots. Robert Playter, who has been with the company since 1994, is now CEO.
OTTO Motors has long focused on solving the problem of moving goods in the warehouse through AMRs like the OTTO 1500.
“It’s exciting to engage with other cutting-edge robotics companies like Boston Dynamics,” said Ryan Gariepy, CTO and Co-Founder of OTTO Motors. “As leaders in our respective spaces, we can apply our technologies to field a whole new realm of applications.”
During his keynote at the Robotics Summit & Expo 2018, Raibert said it’s been a challenge to balance both the company’s short- and long-term goals. The long-term goal has been solving “the hard problems in robotics, leading to major new functionality.” Its new goal is developing products for real-world applications.
We’re still guessing warehouse workers won’t have Handle as a colleague anytime soon, due to cost and efficiency. But Boston Dynamics, and OTTO, will be demoing products at MODEX, a leading trade show for supply chain, manufacturing, and distribution automation, March 9-12 in Atlanta.