Google's new robot handles well
A new robot design swaps legs for wheels. Jessica Snir reports.
Google-owned robotics company Boston Dynamics has released official footage of its first wheeled creation, dubbed Handle because of its ability manipulate objects.
The vision comes nearly a month after early footage was leaked online. The latest video reveals the bot's remarkable skill to not only swiftly spin and turn across level surfaces, but also smoothly roll down snowy hills and jump over obstacles.
Stabilising wheels located at the rear end of its hind legs enable the robot to stand up vertically, reaching a towering height of almost two metres.
Handle demonstrates its ability to build up to speeds of over 14 kilometres per hour, master jumps over 1.2 metres high and, once charged up, travel distances of about 8 kilometres.
While at this stage Handle serves only for research and development purposes (and quality viewing entertainment) it signals future possibilities for functional use. The two-wheeled hybrid bot is much more efficient than its legged counterparts, being able to carry heavier loads on a smaller surface area. It’s also less expensive to manufacture. The robot design paves a potential path away from the anthropomorphism of Boston Dynamics’ past designs, towards functional utility suitable for common tasks such as carrying boxes across a factory floor.