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What just happened? Remember Stretch, the Boston Dynamics robot designed for warehouse operations that was unveiled last year? The firm has announced that it is now available for purchase, though you won't get one until 2023 and 2024 as pre-orders have been so strong, with the likes of DHL snapping up the robots for its warehouses.
It was almost exactly one year ago when Boston Dynamics introduced Stretch. Unlike some of the company's other machines, such as the quadrupedal Spot and humanoid-like Atlas, Stretch has a specific use case. Its robotic arm and smart vacuum gripper allow it to pick up, move, and put down warehouse boxes weighing up to 50 pounds, while the base lets it move in any direction and even tackle ramps. But no backflips or parkour.
TechCrunch reports that several firms have secured Stretch robots. Hyundai-owned Boston Dynamics signed a massive deal with DHL in January that will see the delivery company purchase $15 million worth of robots. Other clients on the pre-order list include clothing giants Gap and H&M. Boston Dynamics says ongoing labor shortage and supply chain issues have helped spur interest in its machine.
Another factor behind Stretch's popularity is its easy setup, allowing the robot to be installed and ready to work within existing warehouse infrastructure in just a few days. Stretch doesn't need to be pre-programmed with SKU numbers or information on box sizes, works autonomously without the need for supervision or explicit directions, and has an advanced vision system that gives it the power to identify boxes and its surroundings. The machine can also work more than a full shift on a single charge, or up to 16 hours with a high-capacity battery option.