What Does It Take to Get a Robot into the Field?
Our Rotational Development Engineering program gives new grads hands-on experience with the steps required to build, test, troubleshoot, and integrate Stretch.
Taking robots out of the R&D lab and into real world deployments is one of the hardest challenges in the robotics industry. From replacing prototypes with polished products designed for manufacturability and reliability, to providing excellent service and support—there’s a lot that goes into making sure a customer can be successful with technology that just works out of the box.
You need to have a strong understanding of the particular applications for a given robot, as well as the customer’s environment and connected infrastructure, in order to anticipate challenges and make it easy to achieve value.
As Stretch graduates from prototype to product, Boston Dynamics launched a Development Engineering rotational program to train a cohort of young engineers and provide them with hands-on experience in real world deployments. By the end of the program, these engineers will have a holistic understanding of how to build, test, troubleshoot, and integrate Stretch at customer sites.
Stretch’s product design has progressed to the point where it can be reliably deployed in the field and deliver on customer expectations. No longer a scrappy prototype, Stretch is now a polished robot, designed for manufacturability, ease of use, and ease of repair. The next step is to ramp up production to meet customer demand, as well as expand the assembly, test, and repair infrastructure to maintain this fleet.
During the Operations rotation, program participants are focused on product build from the ground up. They learn every aspect of how to build a robot, become an expert on the subassemblies, and general troubleshooting. The goal is for them to gain the hands-on experience needed to understand common failures and how to resolve them at the subassembly level.
Software Quality Assurance
Of course, not all possible failures are mechanical. Our engineers also need to be able to identify and mitigate software issues on the robot. We run extensive testing in close approximation of real-world use; this enables us to ensure that when Stretch gets to customers it operates as expected. During this rotation, our engineers focus on robot testing and debugging, learning to improve system reliability through running data collection campaigns.
“My favorite rotation so far has been the Test Engineering rotation… It's also been exciting to learn how the robot communicates and functions on a deeper level and to utilize this knowledge to troubleshoot any issues that arise during testing.”
- Camille Coutant, Rotational Development Engineer
System Integration & Automation Engineering
Once Stretch is built and able to perform reliably, it’s time to deliver units into customers’ hands. During this Deployment Project Engineering phase, our team is focused on project management and real-world logistics. We develop the project schedule with the customer, support installation and project coordination services, manage third-party installation providers, and execute automation as-built installations as relevant. Our expert robot operators also serve as liaisons between end users and our Product Management and Engineering groups, providing product and technical feedback based on their experiences with customers in the field.
“From manufacturing Stretch to delivering in the customer’s hands, I’ve had the opportunity to closely collaborate with both technical and business-focused people at Boston Dynamics…. On a technical level, the fast-paced rotational program has given me an in-depth understanding of the hardware and software behind Stretch, as well as the logistics that goes into deploying the robot at client sites.”
- Megan Lee, Rotational Development Engineer
Field Applications Engineering
Finally, we provide ongoing technical expertise, guidance, and support to our customers through our Field Applications Engineering (FAE) team. As part of this team, program participants execute the project plan and deployment of Stretch in customer facilities, working hand-in-glove with real-world operators to ensure they are able to see value with Stretch.
The FAE team also serves as a communication hub between systems engineering, product management, deployment, and business development teams to ensure that valuable lessons from the field are incorporated throughout Boston Dynamics. Their input is indispensable to improving Stretch and developing new features to make Stretch even more capable in real warehouses.
Want to join the team?
Taking a robot from a good idea to a real-world tool takes a lot of different areas of expertise—from hands-on tinkering to analytical thinking, from great project management to great people skills.
“The most valuable skill that I have learned so far has been gaining the high-level perspective of a team's effort and figuring out what work needs to be done to push it forward. Over the rotations we have had so far, gaining the ability to build and then interface all of the components together has given me a great understanding of how the robot works. This knowledge has brought a deep understanding of the processes required in supporting the robot's functionality, design changes, and repeatability, which is useful to many different teams.”
- Alyce Bittar, Rotational Development Engineer
Our team is growing rapidly, as we continue to innovate in the robotics industry and drive adoption of practical robotic solutions. If you’re interested in joining the Boston Dynamics team, check out our careers page and find an open role.