Meet Stretch, an automated robot that promises to do your chores one day
Hello Robot, a startup co-founded by the former Google director of robotics Aaron Edsinger, has launched a revolutionary research robot designed to give a helping hand
After three years in stealth, Hello Robot has unveiled the Stretch Research Edition: a slender robot intended for use in the home and in the workplace. Stretch robot is the world’s first highly-capable, easy-to-maneuver mobile manipulator.
The bot is poised to do various things like picking up toys, moving laundry, or even playing games with kids.
The minds behind Stretch – Hello Robot
Hello Robot was founded in 2017 with the belief that mobile manipulators could enhance the lives of older adults, people with disabilities, and caregivers.
The company was founded by two experts in human-centric robotics: Dr. Edsinger, who previously held the position of Director of Robotics at Google following the acquisition of two of his robotics companies in 2013, and Dr. Kemp, a professor at Georgia Tech who has conducted extensive research on the use of intelligent robots.
The company has offices in Atlanta, GA, and Martinez, CA, and after three years operating in stealth, has launched its first product – Stretch.
Materials & Techniques – Plastic and Metal
Designed with simplicity and low cost in mind, the Stretch is built from what looks like a mix of aluminum and plastic. The grabber uses minimal hardware built from a combination of rubber cups and metal springs.
These materials also contribute to Hello Robot’s objective of keeping Stretch lightweight. At just 50lb the bit can be easily transported from place to place whilst also using less power to move itself.
Style & Aesthetics – Tall, skinny and minimal
The Stretch doesn’t look like your typical robot. It hasn’t got any legs and only has one arm. Instead, it comprises a tall, skinny frame that makes it look more like an industrial steamer rather than a robot.
Intentionally skipping over a typically humanoid aesthetic, Stretch’s small size lets it navigate tight spaces before being tucked away somewhere out of sight. This ‘helping hand’ employs an ingeniously simple and capable design that makes it adept at performing a variety of useful tasks.
What sets this robot apart is its ability to reach, hence the name. A slender telescoping arm makes it possible to assist in a wide range of applications like assisting an older parent at home, stocking grocery shelves, or even wiping down potentially infectious surfaces at the workplace.
This can be extended to 52 cm (20.4 in) out from the edge of the base.
Design memento – An Open-Ended platform for researchers and developers
At the core of Stretch is open source software, allowing researchers and developers to contribute to its future. The robot has numerous mount points and expansion ports, allowing customers to easily extend the robot with their own hardware.
Stretch also includes an open-hardware library of accessories that researchers can 3D print, such as a tray with a cup holder for delivering objects, and a phone holder that can be used to take pictures.
It was important for the designers not to limit Stretch’s potential and to create infinite possibilities. The bot comes with everything needed to get started, including a compliant gripper, 3D camera, laser range finder, onboard computer, and other sensors to support autonomy and artificial intelligence (AI).
Other tech specs include a built-in computer with Intel Core i5 processing brains, 16 GB of RAM, and 500 GB of SSD storage. There’s also a four-channel microphone array and 8-W stereo speakers, with volume adjust. There are USB, HDMI, and Ethernet ports too.
The writer’s opinion comment – The Stretch wins in being lightweight, low-cost, and accessible
The Stretch offers something unique to the robotics market with a lightweight and low-cost design, which could offer a blueprint for future robots.
Personally, I like the idea of robots being designed for their practical uses before their aesthetic quality. With its slimline design, Stretch puts up a good fight with the ‘humanoid’ technology we expect.
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