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Google officially reveals its latest robot

Posted at 12:35 PM, Feb 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-28 12:35:18-05

If there were an Olympics for robots, Boston Dynamics appears ready to enter.

The Google-owned robotics company officially unveiled its latest robot, Handle, in a YouTube video posted Wednesday that immediately captivated the Internet. Handle, which stands 6-foot-6, looks vaguely human with a torso, arms and legs that have wheels instead of feet.

Boston Dynamics described the combination of legs and wheels as the best of both worlds. The wheels make Handle energy efficient on flat surfaces. (It has a 15-mile range on one charge.) With legs it’s able to manage uneven terrain, and go nearly anywhere.

Handle shows an unusual amount of grace for a hulking robot. In the video Handle rolls down steps, jumps over barriers and onto tables. It boasts a vertical leap of 48 inches, which compares favorably to great human athletes like the winners of the NBA’s dunk contest.

In the 96-second video, Handle also shows speed and agility. It can quickly accelerate to 9 miles per hour. Handle is also capable of carrying heavy loads, displaying its strength in one clip in which it lifts 100 pounds.

But don’t get too excited — the robot is still a research project. It’s unclear when, or if ever, we’ll see the robot operating in the real world. Boston Dynamics has long released eye-catching videos of its robots performing all sorts of feats. Building a robot that’s capable of working safely and effectively near humans is far more difficult than producing a slick demo video.

Handle first surfaced earlier this month, when a Silicon Valley investor posted footage of Handle that aired at a private event.

“This is the debut presentation of what I think will be a nightmare-inducing robot, if you’re anything like me,” Boston Dynamics CEO Marc Raibert told the crowd at the time, drawing laughter.