Assembly bot Baxter wants to get close to you (Q&A)

Baxter has two seven-jointed arms to juggle widgets alongside workers.

(Credit:
Rethink Robotics)

If Baxter had a favorite band, it might be The Carpenters. Rethink Robotics‘ new droid could hum “Close to You” while it gets cozy with human workers along the assembly line.

Baxter starts shipping in October.

(Credit:
Rethink Robotics)

The Boston-based startup launches Baxter today, billing it as a revolutionary humanoid robot that could help stem the tide of manufacturing going overseas for cheap labor.

For one thing, Baxter itself is surprisingly low-cost. Priced at $22,000 including software upgrades, it goes for far less than traditional industrial robots and puts automation in the hands of small and midsize companies that may not have been able to afford it. Labs and universities are also expected to show interest.

Also, unlike most factory robots, Baxter doesn’t require a safety cage. People can work alongside the droid, which is covered in soft materials in case of impact. Sensors tell it when people are near, and it will stop moving if it does make contact with something unexpected.

Meanwhile, computer vision and common sense know-how allows it to do things like adapt to a situation (for instance, if it drops a part it can con… [Read more]

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