Almost exactly a year ago, Boston Dynamics introduced a new robot called "Stretch." It's not quite as exciting or as terrifyingly adorable as the Hyundai-owned company's Spot robotic dog, but it can make loading, unloading and moving boxes in warehouses a lot easier. Now, Boston Dynamics has announced that Stretch is finally available for purchase. Or, more precisely, it's now accepting reservations for deliveries in 2023 and 2024, because it's sold out throughout the year due to strong pre-order demand.
One of the early Stretch customers is DHL, which signed a $15 million deal with Boston Dynamics to equip its warehouses in North America with the robots over the coming years. TechCrunch says Gap and H&M are equipping their warehouses with the robot, as well.
What makes Stretch a feasible option for any company is that it was built for easy deployment and doesn't require warehouses to be set up for automation. It doesn't have to be pre-programmed and doesn't need information on the box sizes it needs to handle, though they have to weigh 50 pounds and below. Stretch has a wheeled base, so it can move around without the need for fixed infrastructure, and it has an advanced vision system that gives it the power to autonomously identify boxes and its surroundings.
Boston Dynamics CEO Robert Playter says companies are showing interest in Stretch due to labor shortages, especially since it can be installed and ready to work within existing warehouses in just a few days:
"Labor shortages and supply chain snags continue to create challenges in keeping the flow of goods moving. Stretch makes logistics operations more efficient and predictable, and it improves safety by taking on one of the most physically demanding jobs in the warehouse. Many of our early adopter customers have already committed to deploying the robot at scale, so we are excited Stretch will soon be put to work more broadly, helping retailers and logistics companies handle the continued surging demand for goods."
You can watch Stretch in action below: