Ex-Googler's Stealth Startup "Hello Robot"

Ex-Googler's Stealth Startup "Stretch RE1", the latest offering from Hello Robot.


2/22/20242 min read

In the span of the past decade, the PR2 has been a pivotal tool for advancing the field of mobile manipulation, facilitating significant progress in robotics research. Despite its decade-long tenure, navigating the complexities of robotics remains a formidable challenge. The PR2 offered a valuable platform, alleviating concerns about hardware and enabling researchers to focus on innovative applications.

However, accessibility remains an issue, with the exorbitant price tag of $400,000 placing the PR2 out of reach for many. Additionally, with PR2s approaching obsolescence, there's a pressing need for alternative solutions. While other mobile manipulators have emerged, they are often confined to research environments due to their size and cost, hindering widespread practical implementation.

Addressing these challenges, Hello Robot introduces the Stretch RE1, a novel mobile manipulator poised to revolutionize the field. Founded by Aaron Edsinger and Charlie Kemp, Hello Robot merges years of expertise and a shared vision for robotics development.

The genesis of Stretch is rooted in the extensive experience of its creators. Edsinger's involvement with Meka Robotics and Redwood Robotics, along with Kemp's tenure at Georgia Tech's Healthcare Robotics Lab, laid the groundwork for their collaboration. Their shared background under Rodney Brooks at MIT underscores their common philosophy on the purpose and application of robots.

Stretch embodies a departure from the all-encompassing approach of its predecessors like the PR2. Designed to fulfill essential functions in a compact and affordable package, Stretch marks a significant shift in robotics design philosophy. Weighing a mere 23 kg and priced at $17,950, Stretch offers a cost-effective alternative to bulkier, high-priced options.

The significance of Stretch's compact size cannot be overstated. Maya Cakmak from the University of Washington emphasizes the practical implications, noting that Stretch's portability enables researchers to deploy it in real-world settings with ease. Unlike its cumbersome counterparts, Stretch's lightweight design allows it to be transported in a standard car, facilitating broader research opportunities.

Despite its streamlined functionality, Stretch's capabilities are finely tuned to meet the demands of real-world applications. Leveraging innovative design choices, such as a telescoping arm driven by a single motor, Stretch achieves a delicate balance of reach, precision, and affordability. Furthermore, its gripper, informed by extensive user feedback from platforms like Amazon, demonstrates Hello Robot's commitment to practicality and user-centered design.

In essence, Stretch represents a paradigm shift in mobile manipulation, bridging the gap between research and real-world utility. With its compact footprint and affordable price point, Stretch is poised to democratize robotics research and usher in a new era of innovation and accessibility.