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Boston Dynamics’ Stretch robot lands its first gig

It may lack the charm of Spot and the agility of Atlas, but Boston Dynamics’ slightly dull Stretch robot is still impressive in its own right — so much so that DHL has given it a job.

Less than a year after making its debut, the highly versatile robot is heading to DHL warehouses across the U.S. in a $15 million deal that marks the first commercial purchase of the advanced contraption.

Stretch features a long automated arm with a “smart gripper” at the end for grabbing boxes and other items, while a “perception mast” allows it to handle different kinds of packages with skill and care. Boston Dynamics says Stretch’s speed allows it to handle as many as 800 boxes an hour.

Notably, the robot’s wheels and swiveling base enable it to move to where the work is and operate in tight spaces, reducing the need for fixed infrastructure.

“Stretch is Boston Dynamics’ newest robot, designed specifically to remedy challenges within the warehouse space,” Boston Dynamics CEO Robert Playter said in a release. “We are thrilled to be working with DHL Supply Chain to deliver a fleet of robots that will further automate warehousing and improve safety for its associates.

Playter added: “We believe Stretch can make a measurable impact on DHL’s business operations, and we’re excited to see the robot in action at scale.”

Stretch will start work at DHL in the spring. Whether the robot’s deployment means job losses for human warehouse workers at DHL isn’t clear. Digital Trends has reached out to the shipping giant for more information and we’ll update when we hear back.

Boston Dynamics is currently under the control of Hyundai though previous owners have included Google and SoftBank. The team behind the company’s robots frequently wows folks with fun videos showing off the smarts of its two other robots, the Spot quadruped and the Atlas android.

Semi-autonomous Spot comes with A.I. smarts and companies can purchase it for $75,000. The dog-like robot can be configured to perform a range of tasks, with Ford, for example, using it to scan the layout of one of its factories ahead of a revamp.

Atlas, meanwhile, is still under development and may never become a commercial product, though Boston Dynamics engineers are learning a lot through development work on the robot.

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