This Robot Doesn’t Want to be Your Overlord

Boston-based Rethink Robotics may soon help smaller manufacturers take advantage of newer, friendlier mechanical colleagues.

Until now, small- to medium-sized businesses have faced significant obstacles to robot use. Money, comes to mind. But with Baxter, its two-armed robot, Rethink may have overcome these obstacles.

First, and most importantly, Baxter is capable of “learning” to perform through actions rather than code. To teach Baxter a task, a human worker guides it through the actions it has to perform.

Another significant problem with robots is the physical danger they pose to human workers. Rethink has engineered Baxter so that it is able to work alongside humans safely. Sensors have been integrated in an effort to make the robot aware of its surroundings so that it can act appropriately for its environment. When a human enters Baxter’s workspace, it slows down its actions it can safely work with the human side-by-side.

Last, but not least, is price. At $22,000, Baxter isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s considerably cheaper than most industrial robots. With action-based programming eliminating the need for an actual programmer, it becomes a truly affordable proposition.

Will Baxter outperform a full-scale industrial robot? Definitely not, but that’s not what’s important. Rethink’s creation isn’t aimed at industry. It’s for smaller businesses that haven’t yet been able to enjoy the benefits of automation. And there are a lot of those, which almost certainly means big things for Rethink.