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Boston Dynamics unveils new box-moving robot for warehouse automation

Stretch, the box-moving robot for warehouse automation.

Boston Dynamics has revealed Stretch, its new box-moving robot designed to support the growing demand for flexible automation solutions in the logistics industry. This debut marks the company's official entrance into warehouse automation, a fast-growing market fueled by increased demand in e-commerce.

Stretch is Boston Dynamics' first commercial robot specifically designed for warehouse facilities and distribution centres, of which there are more than 150,000 globally, according to analysts. 

The multi-purpose mobile robot is designed to tackle a number of tasks where rapid box moving is required, first starting with truck unloading and later expanding into order building. Stretch's technology builds upon Boston Dynamics' decades of advancements in robotics to create a flexible, easily-integrated solution that can work in any warehouse to increase their flow of goods, improve employee safety in physically difficult tasks and lower expensive fixed automation costs. 

The robot's small, omni-directional mobile base allows Stretch to navigate loading docks, maneuver in tight spaces and adapt to changing facility layouts, eliminating the need for costly fixed automation infrastructure. It is equipped with a custom-designed lightweight arm and a smart-gripper with advanced sensing and controls that can handle a large variety of boxed and shrink wrapped cases. Stretch also includes Boston Dynamics' computer vision technology that enables it to identify boxes easily and without extensive training for each customer. Its vision system works in tandem with pick and place activity, enabling high pick rates. 

Traditional warehouse automation approaches require either installation of fixed infrastructure or mobile robots that convey goods but struggle to meet productivity requirements to be an attractive investment for warehouse operators. Stretch offers logistics providers an easier path to automation by working within existing warehouse spaces and operations, without requiring costly reconfiguration or investments in new fixed infrastructure.

"Warehouses are struggling to meet rapidly increasing demand as the world relies more on just-in-time delivery of goods," said Robert Playter, CEO of Boston Dynamics. "Mobile robots enable the flexible movement of materials and improve working conditions for employees. Stretch combines Boston Dynamics' advancements in mobility, perception and manipulation to tackle the most challenging, injury-prone case-handling tasks, and we're excited to see it put to work." 

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