Boston Dynamics’ “Handle” robot looks like an impressive piece of tech, able to leap four feet in the air and confidently navigate varying terrain.
In a newly released demonstration video, the Handle struts its stuff at about 9 MPH on a pair of reverse-jointed legs that can be modified with more traditional “feet” for traversing uneven terrain, allowing it the “best of both worlds,” according to its creators.
Marc Raibert called Handle potentially “nightmare-inducing” when he debuted it in January. He said that it’s an experiment in “combining wheels with legs,” using a “very dynamic system that is balancing itself all the time.” Handle has “a lot of knowledge about how to throw its weight around, which it uses to help stabilize itself.” Raibert said that the design is “much more efficient” than its legged predecessors.
Handle is shown performing rapid 360-degree spins without losing balance, rolling down a snowy hillside, and easily descending concrete steps. Handle can lift and transport significant weight across its 15-mile single-charge range. In the video, it lowers its Tyrannosaurus Rex-like arms to lift and carry a 100 lb crate.
While it uses “many of the same dynamics, balance, and mobile manipulation principles” as Boston Dynamics’ previous projects, Handle is “significantly less complex” due to its use of a mere 10 actuated joints. Fully extended, the vaguely humanoid robot is almost 6 and a half feet tall, but it rarely stands straight. The vast majority of its activity takes place in a sort of half crouch, allowing it to shift and balance in response to its environment.
Perhaps most impressive are Handle’s parkour skills. The bot can leap four feet straight into the air. In the video, Handle makes a running leap onto a high platform, then rolls off and lands without so much as a stumble. That means it’s already far more agile than me.