Meet “Handle”, the kind of robot we only dreamed about as kids (well, if you’re as old as I). It’s just now been introduced to the world by Boston Dynamics, and the YouTube notes say this:
Handle is a research robot that combines the efficiency of wheels with the versatility of legs. It stands 6.5 ft tall, travels at 9 mph and jumps 4 feet vertically. It uses electric power to operate both electric and hydraulic actuators, with a range of about 15 miles on one battery charge. Handle uses many of the same dynamics, balance and mobile manipulation principles found in the quadruped and biped robots we build, but with only about 10 actuated joints, it is significantly less complex. Wheels work efficiently on flat surfaces while legs can go almost anywhere: by combining wheels and legs Handle can have the best of both worlds.
Raibert says the robot can “carry a reasonably heavy load on a small footprint” and is essentially an exercise to test the potential for developing a humanoid robot that has less degrees of freedom than a walking robot, and is therefore cheaper to produce, while still retaining comparable mobility capabilities.
This is clearly not yet at the stage where it can replace people, but it’s on the way. I can think of lots of stuff Handle could do, much of which would take jobs away from people: tasks include rendering bombs harmless (we have robots for that already, but this one’s better), going into hostage or crime situations instead of sending in a live human, filling up the baskets for Amazon orders, picking out library books from a stack (we have a semi-automated system to do that at my University), help disabled people, and so on. I’m sure readers can think of more applications.
I was stupified when I saw it jump at the end (1:26 on).