The news: This week Boston Dynamics unveiled a new robot, and it may be stocking warehouse shelves near you as soon as 2022.
The bigger picture: Boston Dynamics continues its pivot from humanoid robots with viral video-worthy moves to marketable commercial robots ready to replace human warehouse labor at a superhuman speed.
- Boston Dynamics already has one commercial robot, Spot, a robot dog capable of inspecting dangerous or remote areas that sells for $74,500.
- Now Stretch, a commercial descendent of its parental prototype, Handle, is getting ready to tackle warehouse work.
- Stretch is breaking ground—or at least rolling across it—with its innovative wheels, allowing it to boldly roll where no static warehouse robot has gone before.
Why it’s worth watching: Stretch will join an army of already employed robots, like Amazon Robotics’ Kiva, that are quite literally electrifying the logistics and shipping industry.
- For warehouse workers, Amazon Robotics promised the potential of taking on the herculean hours and intense labor Amazon demands of employees. In reality, the introduction of robots has ramped up that work to a superhuman extreme, leaving laborers subjected to inhumane work conditions desperate for union representation.
- According to a survey by the World Economic Forum, 72% of respondents in the manufacturing industry report robotics as a key technological focus for future adoption.
- Still, only about 1 in 3 business leaders surveyed by Dell Technologies plan on investing in industrial robotics, though this may change with commercial robots like Stretch on the market.
What’s next: The proliferation of commercial robots may offer other suppliers an opportunity to compete with the amazonian appeal of two-day delivery and free returns due to low restock fees.
- That said, the robot may ultimately leave warehouse workers not only competing with Amazon, but with Stretch’s impeccable productivity as well.
- For now, we’re waiting patiently for Boston Dynamics to release a video of Stretch fighting Spot, while Atlas dances enthusiastically in the background.