The company's new wheeled, upright robot is named Handle ("because it's supposed to handle objects") and looks like a cross between a Segway and the two-legged Atlas bot. Handle hasn't been officially unveiled, but was shown off by company founder Marc Raibert in a presentation to investors. Footage of the presentation was uploaded to YouTube by venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson.
Raibert describes Handle as an "experiment in combining wheels with legs, with a very dynamic system that is balancing itself all the time and has a lot of knowledge of how to throw its weight around." He adds that using wheels is more efficient than legs, although there's obviously a trade-off in terms of maneuvering over uneven ground. "This is the debut presentation of what I think will be a nightmare-inducing robot," says Raibert.
Creating a more efficient robot that can handle basic tasks like moving objects around a warehouse would certainly be of benefit for Boston Dynamics. Although the company has consistently wowed the public with its robots, it's struggled to produce a commercial product that's ready for the real world.
Boston Dynamics was purchased by Google's parent company Alphabet in 2013, but in March last year, Bloomberg reported that Alphabet was looking to sell the firm. Executives at Alphabet reportedly said the company couldn't spend resources on products "that take ten years" to develop, with Toyota and Amazon both mentioned as potentially interested buyers. We've not heard anything on the status of Boston Dynamics since then, but perhaps the wheeled (and efficient) Handle will help attract some new bids.