You could argue that the door handle has had a disproportionate affect on modern robotics. It was the humanoids of the Darpa Robotics Challenge, after all, that were tasked with opening doors, and it was those machines that helped drive robots to where they are now.
Today Boston Dynamics posted a video of its SpotMini quadruped robot extending an limb out of its head to turning a handle. With the dexterity of a tray-carrying butler, it applies its foot to prop the door ajar, then elbows it all the way open for its( armless) SpotMini friend to walk through. At face value, it’s a pretty incredible feat. But it’s also an interesting twist in the quest to stimulate robots that get along with a world built by and for humans. Perhaps the Darpa Robotics Challenge had it wrong with humanoids after all, and the best robots for rescue operations will look nothing like humans–or any other animal, for that matter.
At the moment, humanoids are great at two things: Seeming like humans and falling on their faces, as the Robotics Challenge proved so well.( Though one particular humanoid, Cassie, does much better in part because it doesn’t yet have an upper body to worry about yet .) Strolling on two legs is a monumental challenge; that’s why Chimp, a vaguely humanoid machine that rolled on treads instead of lumbering on two legs, did so well.
And also why SpotMini has such promise. Humanoids should be inherently well-equipped to explore contexts built for humans, what with all the stairs and such. But SpotMini has a leg up( sorry) here because four legs are inherently more stable than two. Not to mention that it’s more energy efficient if you don’t have to constantly balance your machine to not fall on its face.