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Boston Dynamics acquires a 3D vision startup in bid to put its robots to work

Last weeks Handle video was different than past Boston Dynamics releases. Sure, it showcased the same sort of impressive robotics that have made every video from the company a viral hit, but this one took a very different approach than other recent releases: It put the robot to work.
There were some clear aesthetic differences: the robot appeared a bit larger, and its two arms were swapped out for a single, overhead limb with several suction cups attached. The key differentiator, however, was a relatively mundane setting, in which Handle was moving boxes on and off of pallets and conveyor belts.
Now weve got a little more insight into why the company was showcasing its latest creation in a warehouse setting. Today Boston Dynamics announced its first major acquisition: a Bay Area-based startup called Kinema Systems. The company develops 3D imagine solutions for pick-and-place logistics.

The acquisition is telling. Over the last few years, Boston Dynamics was acquired by Alphabet and then sold to SoftBank. Somewhere along the way, it seems clear that the idea of monetization was impressed upon it.
I think Google planted the seed, CEO Marc Raibert tells TechCrunch. And all of the other robotics companies near us were much more focused on applications and product than we were. So weve been turning that corner. Its been a consistent thing. Its not like we got to SoftBank and they hit us with a hammer and suddenly said, make products. Theyve been extremely enthusiastic about our R&D work, too. It feels good to do both.

Boston Dynamics will take a two-pronged approach, moving forward. The company will continue to push the boundaries of what robotics can do, with products like Atlas, while it looks for real-world applications for other products, including Handle and SpotMini, which it announced last year at TechCrunchs Robotics event it would begin to commercialize. That product, it seems, is still due out in 2019.
Unlike many other startups in the robotics category, however, Kinema has actually had a product on the market. Kinema describes the Pick as the worlds first Deep-learning 3D Vision systems for industrial robots. Notably, the Picks suction cup-sporting arm bears more than a passing resemblance to the Handles newly redesigned limb.
As part of the deal, the robotic arm is being rebranded as the Boston Dynamics Pick System, as seen in the above video. The company will continue to sell and support the system, meaning that it officially beats the Spot Mini to market at Boston Dynamics first commercialized product. The addition of a redesigned Handle appears to find Boston Dynamics looking to build out a logistics ecosystem, something that has the potential to compete with warehouse robotics companies like Fetch or even Amazon Robotics.
One of the things thats exciting about the Kinema acquisition is that theyve already been in the product environment thats very specific to warehouses and logistics, Michael Perry, Boston Dynamics VP of Business Development tells TechCrunch. Theyve already been through the process of figuring out what are some of the site-specific issues we need to incorporate into our design. Everything from comms to perception to safety. All of these different factors are now filtering into the design of the robot.
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