Imagine a dog standing on its hind legs, riding on roller skates. Now imagine that this wondrous animal could leap up to in the air, lift a 100-pound crate as if it were nothing, and roll down stairs without tripping or falling. Congratulations: You just imagined Boston Dynamics’ new Handle robot. I hope you can still sleep tonight.
Like Boston Dynamics’ many other tireless military robots, this one moves uncannily like a real live creature. It stands six and a half feet tall, rolls at up to 9 mph, and can jump four feet vertically. Because it has both legs and wheels, it can go almost anywhere. But if you ever find yourself being chased down by this relentless machine, take hope: it will only run for 15 miles on a charge, so if you can last that long, you may live. Thank god, you’ve been training for that half marathon.
On first glance, Handle really does look like a dog on its back legs, forelegs held out in front, and with a head that lollops as the robot leaps. But when you watch the video, you’ll come to a scene where Handle spins on the spot, and–like one of these optical illusions that’s two faces and a vase at the same time–suddenly it becomes a cute little Iron Man lookalike, one that insists on going backwards, fists held behind it.
Dog, or cute anime-style superhero, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that Boston Dynamics has managed to make yet another go-anywhere robot, and this one is simpler than ever, with just 10 actuated joints (fewer than any of its other robots). Also, this is the only research-robot video we can remember that ends with a leap into freeze-frame, like the end of a 1980s TV action show episode. Perhaps Handle needs its own light-hearted Saturday-evening TV show?