I’m sure you’ve all seen the walking terror robot dogs from Boston Dynamics across your social media feeds in the past. Always eliciting a fear of a future where these dangerous ‘creatures’ are let loose or go crazy and, well, see the film Terminator for the rest. Also to throw something else at you, the cover image is AI generated and not related to what follows.

So back to Boston Dynamics, a company known to be on the cusp of cutting edge robotics and as such has to stay financially viable interim with many long term plans in their minds. This is where their latest robot, Stretch, comes into play.  Created for a more commercial audience, Boston Dynamics are hoping this new robot will balance their books and in the process also revolutionise logistics.

From a prototype in 2021 Stretch is now in production, and it’s already sold out.  DHL has already signed a $15m deal and Gap & H&M are rumoured to also have signed up.

the prototype vs the final product

So what is Stretch?

Well, Stretch is a versatile, mobile robot designed to handle a variety of tasks in warehouses and logistics centres. Its primary function is to automate the loading and unloading of containers, which as any handballer will tell you is a labour-intensive and time-consuming process. Whilst box moving machines are nothing new, watching Stretch glide across a warehouse like a ballet dancer certainly is.  The robot’s advanced vision system and weird custom gripper enable it to identify, pick, and transport packages of different shapes and sizes with remarkable precision and speed completing a handballers job with maximum efficiency and minimum fuss. And all ready to go again.

With the advent of Stretch, it seems the container loading and logistics sectors are set for quite a transformative shift. This state-of-the-art robot will streamline processes, increase efficiency, and reshape the way logistics centres operate.

DHL even went full livery

The CEO of Boston Dynamics identified the growing demand to automate the container loading process as part of their need to find a commercially viable short-term product. With a growing waiting list of eager mainstream clients it seems they finally have a hit.

With Stretch companies can also eliminate the risk of injury associated with manual handling as well as increase efficiency due to its potential of 24hr operation without fatigue. This results in higher productivity, which translates into reduced lead times. A win for customer satisfaction!  Its on-board sensor technology ensures that containers are packed to their full potential, optimizing the use of available space and minimizing shipping costs.

Beyond container loading, the Stretch robot is designed to support a wide range of warehouse tasks, such as inventory management, order picking, and palletizing. Its advanced AI capabilities allow it to navigate complex environments, avoiding obstacles and ensuring seamless coordination with human operators and other warehouse equipment.

The robot’s ability to automate repetitive and physically demanding tasks can significantly reduce or remove the workload of a human operator. How this will fare with current labour forces who would hopefully be redeployed is a cause for concern. Many enjoy their jobs and more so, need their jobs, and the thought of being ‘replaced’ by robots is a worrying but seemingly unstoppable sign of the times. This is an area to watch carefully over the next few years as unions no doubt have this and similar technology on the radars.

Stretch is available now to purchase but its price isn’t publicly available, you’ll have to contact Boston Dynamics directly. In conclusion, Stretch is just part of the new wave of AI driven automation, both in hardware and software, about to hit the logistics industry and we should all brace for the impact, in whatever form.