Baxter (via Rethink Robotics)


Rethink Robotics has recently unveiled their contribution to the world of robotics and its name is Baxter. The Boston-based company states that the manufacturing robot is not only adaptable to its industrial environment but also safe working side-by-side with its human counterparts (meaning it won’t ‘crush, kill, and destroy’). Baxter was designed for the manufacturing field and purposly equipped with two ambidextrous arms with 7-DOF which feature 2 ‘end-effectors’ that can be outfitted with different attachments such as vacuum cups or electric parallel grippers with interchangeable fingers (depending on the task). Each arm is equipped with force-feedback sensors that immobilize the arm if Baxter inadvertently hits an object such as a human even though the force generated by the robot is negligible on impact (it won’t hurt you).


Baxter’s head features 5 independent cameras that it uses to detect objects parts and work-space along with a 3600 sonar detection module. It uses the sensors for detecting humans and obstacles in the immediate work area. The robot uses a screen for its face that provides interaction (or interface) with its human co-workers such as giving it commands or tasks which the robot nods it head if it understands or displays a ‘puzzled’ look if it didn’t quite understand. The robot can also be programmed through direct arm movements through control panels on both of the bots arms (training through demonstration) or through a GUI interface. Baxter can be positioned practically anywhere as it sits on a mobile platform with castors. However, the company states that future revisions of the robot will feature the ability to be ‘self-guided’ on a robotic platform.


Repetitive menial labor is what Baxter was designed for and has the ability to handle materials (up to 5 pounds in weight), packing/unpacking, object inspection, light assembly of products and finishing operations (grinding and polishing materials). The robot costs $22,000 US, so most of us won’t have one for our homes. It's relatively cheap enough for small manufacturing companies which is what Rethink Robotics is the intended target.


Personally, I don't care for the robot's digital face. It makes me think it's trying to hide something.