Boston Dynamics moves from feet to wheels with jumping Handle bot

28 Feb 2017

Still from ‘Introducing Handle’. Image: Boston Dynamics/YouTube

Boston Dynamics continues to capture the imagination with its latest creation, Handle, which is ditching cumbersome legs in favour of wheels.

Despite Alphabet revealing that it wanted to ditch its advanced robotics subsidiary some time ago, Boston Dynamics continues to churn out some weird, wonderful (and sometimes terrifying) robot creations.

The latest robot, however, is noticeably different from its predecessors, ditching its awkward feet for some fast-paced rollerblading wheels.

Called Handle, the robot towers above most humans at 6.5ft and can glide around an empty warehouse – or any flat surface – at a speed of nearly 15kph.

Perhaps one of the most interesting features is the fact that it is capable of vertically jumping 4ft in the air, or more than half its own height.

To do this, it uses electrical power to operate both electric and hydraulic actuators and, on a single charge, has a range of 24km.

According to Boston Dynamics, what makes Handle an improvement on its predecessors is that this robot is far less complex, with only 10 actuated joints.

Putting itself in the shop window

It can also navigate stairs as easily as humans by simply driving down them, and find a way over troublesome, snowy landscapes if needs be.

Like a robotic velociraptor, Handle has two small arms at the front that it uses for balance and endpoint control.

But unlike a velociraptor, Handle’s arms actually have some use, as the video shows that it can pick up objects up to 45kg.

“By combining wheels and legs, Handle can have the best of both worlds,” Boston Dynamics said.

While robots such as Handle continue to captivate an audience, the possibility of Alphabet parting ways with the robotics company continues to loom on the horizon.

When Alphabet announced its decision last year, it said that despite the good work of Boston Dynamics, its robots were not “marketable products”.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic