Boston Dynamics shows off new hybrid robot

Posted on 2 Feb 2017 by Michael Cruickshank

US-based robotics company Boston Dynamics has shown off a new hybrid robot design in a presentation to investors.

Video from the presentation leaked showing a new robotic system called ‘Handle’ which combines some of the unique capabilities of wheeled and bipedal robots.

Handle resembles other bipedal, or human-like robots, but rather than having feet, its legs end in powered wheels.

These wheels enable it to efficiently and speedily move over terrain with much greater ease than the awkward gait of bipedal robots.

Its upper body, however, is designed to be more dexterous, with two arms ending in hands able to pick up and ‘handle’ heavy objects.

The robot constantly balances itself using its upper limbs, something which gives the robot a rather unsettling appearance while in motion.

“This is the debut presentation of what I think will be a nightmare-inducing robot,” said Boston Dynamics founder Marc Raibert in the leaked video.

“This is an exercise in seeing if we can do something like the humanoid […] that eventually could be less expensive but still have significant capabilities.”

While the company jokes about the way its robots might be perceived by the public, it is likely much more interested in how it is perceived from an economic standpoint.

Early last year it was reported that Boston Dynamics’ owner, Alphabet, was looking to find a new buyer for the company.

At the time it was reported that the reason for this was that Boston Dynamics was unable to produce a market-ready product that could be easily used to generate a return on investment.

Others also speculated that the company’s focus on designing robots for use by the military could be hurting Google and Alphabet’s brand image.

Nonetheless, it would appear that despite much speculation, Alphabet has not yet found a buyer for the company, and indeed with Handle, it seems that Boston Dynamics is trying to the best of its ability to create innovative but also competitive robots.