Google’s Boston Dynamics has revealed a bi-pedal robot, which looks surreal. It has two robotic forelimbs and a pair of wheels where its hind-limbs should have been. Handle, as the robot is called, is the next installment of a similar-styled robot called Atlas, which was launched last year.
Handle, a Nightmare?
The robot is called Handle because it was initially designed to “handle” things — lift and transport heavy objects. However, its biggest limitation is that it cannot run on uneven terrain. This property is in sharp contrast with its predecessor, Atlas, which had the capability to travel on any kind of ground and environment.
For some reason, Handle has been dubbed as the “nightmare-inducing robot” by Marc Raibert, the founder of Boston Dynamics. Even though the footage of the robot doing a test run was supposed to stay confidential, it was leaked online. In the video, which was recorded by an attendee at the presentation given, shows the full potential of Handle, Gizmodo reported.
Advantages of Handle
It can easily be maneuvered on smooth surface, for example, in a factory or a warehouse. It can also jump over small obstacles on its way. Raibert was heard saying that Handle is more efficient that most double-limbed robots because it can carry “reasonably heavy load”. It also displayed impeccable balance even when rolling down a slanting patch of grass. Furthermore, it is resigned to avoid collision by screeching to a halt in fraction of seconds.
“This is an experiment in combining wheels with legs,” Raibert said in the presentation, reported Newsweek. “[Handle] is a very dynamic system that is balancing itself all the time and has a lot of knowledge of how to throw its weight around, which it uses to help stabilize itself.” This also gives it considerably more advantage over Atlas, which is limited in terms of flexibility ans load-carrying strength.
Boston Dynamics have dealt with two-legged robots before. However, it has never developed a robot with wheels attached to it. Raibert mentioned that the pair of wheels makes Handle a lot cheaper than all two-legged robotic prototypes before.
But despite the robotic feats that Boston Dynamics has achieved, it has been abandoned by its parent company, Alphabet. The robotics company is now up for sale in the market. But since it receives financial support from Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), it will have no problem surviving until its next owner takes over.